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The European Union has closely followed the response of the Belarusian authorities to the recent demonstrations. In past days we have observed hourly reports of preventive arrests and detentions on the basis of various charges. Journalists have been sanctioned for covering the events. Such repression of freedom of expression and assembly is in contradiction with Belarus’ stated policy of democratisation and its international commitments.
Both in the run up to and during today's Freedom Day events and despite international community calls for restraint, the response by the security services was indiscriminate and inappropriate. The human rights centre "Viasna" was raided. Ordinary citizens were apprehended in great number for no apparent reason. In this regard, we recall that the use of force against peaceful protesters cannot be justified under any circumstances.
Respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms, including of expression, association and assembly, needs to be upheld. All recently detained peaceful citizens must be immediately released.
Steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, rule of law and human rights will remain key for the shaping of the European Union's relationship with the country.