Statement by Minister Baird on the Situation in Belarus

(No. 195 – July 8, 2011 – 5 p.m. ET) John Baird, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, today issued the following statement in response to the recent violent arrests of peaceful demonstrators and journalists at Independence Day celebrations throughout Belarus:

"Canada is deeply disappointed that, once again, citizens of Belarus are being detained for exercising their fundamental rights of freedom of assembly and expression. We condemn the violent and disproportionate response by the Government of Belarus to the peaceful Independence Day celebrations and strongly urge Belarusian authorities to respect human rights and the rule of law.

"Canada also condemns the ongoing harassment and arrest of independent media representatives. While we welcome the release of Andrzej Poczobut, we urge the Belarusian authorities to clear him of the politically motivated conviction.  

"We urge Belarus to release all political prisoners and to immediately stop the repression of civil society. 

"Canada condemned the Government of Belarus’s use of violence and repression after the country’s flawed December 19, 2010, presidential election and has remained concerned by the ongoing crackdown on opposition activists and independent media. The Government of Canada has repeatedly called on the Belarusian authorities to release those arrested and to uphold democratic principles, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

"Canada remains a vigorous defender of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Belarus and will continue to work with other like-minded countries and international organizations to ensure that the people of Belarus can exercise these fundamental rights."

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