VLADIMIR PUTIN TALKING WITH PRESIDENT ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO OF BELARUS. PHOTO: KREMLIN.RU. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Belarus has been branded the last dictatorship in Europe. The country is currently ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994. Electoral fraud, suppressed opposition and disregard for human rights have been characteristic throughout Lukashenko’s presidency. Despite massive protest from the citizens, sanctions and criticism from the international community, the Belarusian authorities remain unaffected. The lack of democracy however, is not the only deficit in Belarus now – the economic crisis is increasing in severity, and Belarus is in need of loans to avoid default. The question remains: who is willing to bailout this dictatorship?
The European Union and the US have strongly criticized and condemned the actions of the Belarusian authorities. In addition, they have imposed sanctions against Belarus, including asset freezes and travel restrictions for several Belarusian officials, including Lukashenko. In September of 2011 the Eastern Partnership Summit was held in Warsaw. The summit brings together heads of states from 33 countries to further the integration of the EU’s eastern neighbours into Europe and to encourage them to adopt the EU’s political and economic standards. The EU expressed their disapproval with Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime by extending his travel restrictions and inviting his foreign minister to attend the summit in his place. As a result Belarus boycotted the summit.
The European security organization, OSCE, of which Belarus is a part, has been engaged in Belarus for several years. In addition to their election observations, the OSCE opened a field-office in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, in 2003. The office worked to help Belarus meet their commitments as an OSCE participating state, which included encouraging and developing a vibrant civil society and promoting the rule of law. After the election last year, Belarus decided not to extend the mandate for the office, forcing it to close down.
LUKASHENKO AND MEDVEDEV. PHOTO: KREMLIN.RE. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
The violations against human rights in Belarus prompted 14 participating states of the OSCE to invoke the so-calledMoscow Mechanism in April, 2011. The mechanism allows them to send an independent rapporteur to Belarus to examine the human rights situation and implementation of OSCE commitments. The Belarusian authorities were not thrilled about letting a rapporteur conduct an investigation and report on the state of human rights there. Belarus promptly denied the rapporteur a visa and refused to cooperate.