Statement by Minister Cannon on Situation in Belarus

(No. 70 - February 18, 2011 - 6:45 p.m. ET) The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement in response to the conviction by Belarus of Vasil Parfyankov, a member of the political opposition who participated in demonstrations that were brutally suppressed by Belarusian authorities last December 19 in Minsk, following the flawed presidential election:

"Canada deplores the Belarusian authorities’ lack of respect for the fundamental rights of freedom of assembly and of expression. We condemn the ongoing persecution of Belarusian citizens, such as Vasil Parfyankov, and call for the immediate release of all detained protestors.

"Canada urges Belarus to respect the rule of law and the principle of an independent judiciary and to end the harassment of political opponents, human rights activists and independent media.

"Canada is deeply disappointed by Belarus’s decision to close the Minsk office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. We support the intention of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to send observers to monitor future trials. We urge the Belarusian authorities to uphold their OSCE commitments to democracy and human rights, and to allow these observers access to court proceedings.

"Canada will continue to work with other like-minded countries and international organizations to ensure that the people of Belarus can exercise their fundamental rights."

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Lynn Meahan
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
613-995-1851

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
613-995-1874
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