1. The European Union continues to follow closely the situation in Belarus and remains deeply concerned about the ongoing and increasing use of violence by the authorities against peaceful protesters, human rights defenders, members of the pro-democratic movement, civil society and strike committees.
2. The EU strongly condemns the numerous arrests of peaceful protesters during marches organised in Minsk and other major cities of Belarus on 19 and 20 September. The EU urges the Belarusian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally all unlawfully detained persons, including political prisoners.
3. We note with concern reports that a number of protesters, including women, were gravely mistreated and detained on the basis of fabricated charges. The authorities also tried to suppress large protests in a violent manner.
4. We are gravely alarmed by the numerous reports of torture and ill treatment committed by the Belarus law enforcement. UN Special rapporteurs have received reports on more than 450 documented cases of torture and ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty.
5. We fully share the opinion of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights that the Belarusian authorities bear the main responsibility for stopping the serious human rights violations committed on their territory and providing redress for all victims. We urge the Belarus authorities to abide by their international commitments, and to conduct independent, impartial and transparent investigations of all reported cases of torture, ill treatment and sexual and gender-based violence and to guarantee the right of victims to obtain redress. In the same manner, we urge the authorities in Minsk to investigate the large number of protest-related enforced disappearances and all the other allegations of human rights violations in Belarus.
6. The EU condemns the targeted persecution of the members of the Coordination Council, most of them being either arrested or forced into exile. We also condemn the ongoing violence against and unlawful detention of journalists and media workers.
7. External interference that does not respect the democratic will of the people of Belarus must be avoided. It is for the Belarusian people to determine their country’s future with respect for human rights, democracy and fundamental freedoms. The solution to the current crisis needs to be found by Belarusians themselves. Therefore, we call for an open and inclusive national dialogue with broader society, in particular the Coordination Council, leading to a peaceful solution and a positive response to demands of the Belarusian people for new democratic elections.
8. We welcome and support the efforts being made by the OSCE to facilitate such dialogue. We are convinced that the Council of Europe could also have an important role to play in fostering a constructive solution to the current crisis, based on the core values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.