2017 Kent Harstedt lightOSCE PA Vice-President and Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus Kent HarstedtCOPENHAGEN, 24 March 2017 – Kent Harstedt (MP, Sweden), the Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus, today expressed concerns regarding an increasingly hazardous atmosphere pertaining to demonstrations that have taken place in recent weeks and other gatherings that are reportedly planned to be held tomorrow.

“The Belarusian authorities need to show restraint in handling the demonstrations. The fundamental rights of citizens must be upheld, including freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate peacefully. I am particularly concerned by the preventive arrests and intimidations that reportedly aim to obstruct certain people from taking part in the demonstrations,” Harstedt said.

He added however that demonstrators also have obligations.

“Freedom of assembly comes with responsibilities. The organizers and the participants in the demonstrations need to ensure that they occur in a calm and peaceful manner. I believe that the overwhelming majority of the people in Belarus expect the behaviour of all those involved with the demonstrations to be moderate and responsible,” Harstedt said.

The OSCE PA’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus was appointed in October 1998 to assist in the development of democracy in Belarus. Kent Harstedt is a Vice-President of the Assembly and was appointed Chair of the Working Group by the OSCE PA President in April 2016.