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The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus was appointed in October 1998 in order to assist in the development of democracy in Belarus. Since April 2016, it has been chaired by OSCE PA Vice-President Kent Harstedt (MP, Sweden).

The main aim of the Working Group has been to support dialogue between the country's government and opposition in an effort to promote free and fair election processes and the democratic standards.

The Group has stressed the importance of Belarusian participation in OSCE activities and the need to find peaceful, inclusive solutions to the country's political issues. 


 

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.

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.

COPENHAGEN, 29 April 2016 – Kent Harstedt (MP, Sweden), Vice-President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and Chair of its Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus, had a mixed reaction to the statement of Chairwoman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Belarus Lidia Yermoshina following the press conference with the head of state on 27 April.

“The Belarusian government has taken a positive step in agreeing to implement some of the OSCE/ODIHR’s recommendations made after recent election observations in the country. I however regret that long overdue changes to the electoral law are not foreseen in the coming months,” said Harstedt.

“It remains to be seen how, in practice, the declarations made by the highest level of the electoral administration will translate into action in light of the upcoming parliamentary elections,” he added.

COPENHAGEN, 23 June 2014 – Christian Holm (MP, Sweden), the Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus, today welcomed the release of human rights activist Ales Bialiatski after nearly three years into his prison term, calling the move “hopefully a sign of more to come.”

“The Belarusian government has taken a positive, if long overdue, step in releasing Mr. Bialiatski. His release will not be complete, however, unless authorities allow him and his colleagues in the Belarusian civil society community to work free of state persecution. Mr. Bialiatski’s release is hopefully a sign of more to come: that is, the immediate release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners in Belarus and a genuine commitment to upholding OSCE commitments, particularly in the spheres of democracy and human rights,” Holm said.

“I also noted Mr. Bialiatski’s comment that international support was partially responsible for securing his release. That should serve as a reminder to the international community to continue speaking up loudly and frequently on behalf of human rights and their defenders and to hold governments accountable to their commitments,” Holm added.

BELGRADE, 8 July 2011 – OSCE PA Special Representative on Gender Issues Hedy Fry (Canada) opened Thursday’s well-attended Working Lunch on Gender Issues by underlining the importance of women’s economic independence for the wellbeing of all OSCE countries.

“Some women are less equal than others,” Dr. Fry said, emphasizing that female migrants, especially, are vulnerable to trafficking, prostitution and poverty.The OSCE PA’s Special Representative for Migration, Kathleen Ferrier (The Netherlands) elaborated on the link between migration and gender and encouraged parliamentarians to promote legislation that gives migrants the ability to participate fully in society.

Uta Zapf (left) with Jacek Protasiewicz (right), chairman of the EP Delegation on Relations with Belarus (Photo by Anna Chernova, OSCE PA)Uta Zapf (left) with Jacek Protasiewicz (right), chairman of the EP Delegation on Relations with Belarus (Photo by Anna Chernova, OSCE PA)COPENHAGEN, 26 January 2011 – The Chair of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus, Uta Zapf (Germany), addressed the Political Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg on 24 January. The address was made within the framework of the Parliamentary Troika – which includes Uta Zapf as the Chair of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus, Jacek Protasiewicz, Chairman of the European Parliament Delegation on Relations with Belarus, and Chair of the PACE sub-committee on Belarus Sinikka Hurskainen.

The discussion focused on a PACE report on Belarus being discussed this week, and the recent EP resolution on Belarus, which recommended economic sanctions and an extensive travel ban – while stepping up co-operation with civil society.