Belarus Authorities ‘Deliberately Turning Their Back on Europe’, says PACE Committee, 15.12.2011 – The authorities in Belarus are “deliberately turning their back on Europe and the values it upholds”, the Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said today, giving its full backing to the EU’s targeted sanctions of the country.

Approving a draft resolution and a draft recommendation, based on a report by Andres Herkel (Estonia, EPP/CD), the committee expressed its “deep concern” at the deteriorating situation of human rights and civil and political liberties in the country.

It said the EU’s sanctions should be maintained and even strengthened until political prisoners were released and the crackdown on political opposition, independent media and human rights defenders was ended.

High-level contacts with the Belarusian authorities should remain on hold and Belarus’s application for “Special Guest” status should stay frozen until a moratorium on the execution of the death penalty has been decreed and until there is substantial, tangible and verifiable progress in terms of the values and principles of the Council of Europe, the committee said in its draft resolution. At the same time, it called for stepped up engagement with civil society, independent media and opposition forces.

The report is due to be discussed by the Assembly during its plenary session in Strasbourg in January.