2017 Harstedt and Sanchez AmorKent Harstedt and Ignacio Sanchez AmorCOPENHAGEN, 27 March 2017 – Belarusian authorities must respect principles of freedom of assembly in their handling of demonstrations, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s human rights committee Chair Ignacio Sanchez Amor and Kent Harstedt, the Chair of the Assembly’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus, said today in response to mass arrests of protesters that took place over the weekend. They further called for the release of those who are still in detention.

“Belarus has agreed to certain commitments as an OSCE participating State, including respecting the rights of peaceful assembly and demonstration,” said Sanchez Amor, a Member of the Spanish Parliament. “The mass arrests that took place over the weekend, the excessive use force against protesters and the reported raids of civil society organizations all appear to be violations of those OSCE commitments.”

He reminded authorities that according to the OSCE’s 1990 Copenhagen Document, any restrictions placed on the exercise of the right of assembly must be lawful and consistent with international standards.

Kent Harstedt (MP, Sweden) noted that mass arrests are inconsistent with due process and rule of law principles.

“Each arrest must be done according to principles of due process. If the authorities do not have actual evidence of individual crimes having been committed, then they must release those being held in detention. Preventive arrests based on mere suspicion of ill intent do not meet international standards,” Harstedt said.

Last week, Harstedt expressed concerns regarding an increasingly hazardous atmosphere pertaining to demonstrations that have taken place in Belarus in recent weeks.

“The Belarusian authorities need to show restraint in handling the demonstrations,” Harstedt said on 24 March. “The fundamental rights of citizens must be upheld, including freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate peacefully.”