Estonia expresses concern for elections, freedom of speech in Belarus ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: Raigo Pajula

Estonia has called on Belarus to "ensure free and fair presidential elections" and to "immediately" release political activists, journalists and peaceful prisoners.

On Thursday a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "Estonia continues to express concern over the restrictions on peaceful gatherings and freedom of speech ahead of the upcoming presidential elections in Belarus.

"In recent days, peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and journalists have been detained. It is regrettable that ahead of the upcoming presidential elections, the authorities of Belarus have not ensured the rule of law nor a competitive political environment, and are obstructing the registration of potential candidates. These disproportionate and unwarranted restrictions are not compatible with international standards.

"We call on the authorities of Belarus to ensure free and fair presidential elections and immediately release the human rights defenders, activists, journalists, political opponents and peaceful protesters, ensuring their fundamental rights."

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said: "It is also regrettable that the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) did not receive a timely invitation from the authorities of Belarus to send an observation mission to the presidential elections on August 9."

Belarus will hold a presidential election on August 9 and the current president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has been in power since 1994.

Radio Free Liberty wrote earlier this week that thousands of people across Belarus protested and scuffles broke out with police after an opposition candidate was barred from running in the election. Several hundred people were detained.

The European Union and U.S. have also expressed concern at the ongoing events in the country and thousands of diaspora Belarusians have protested around the world, including in Tallinn.

Freedom House says Belarus is an authoritarian state in which elections are openly orchestrated and civil liberties are tightly restricted.  

Reporters Without Borders ranked Belarus 153 out of 180 countries in this year's Press Freedom Index. Estonia was ranked in 14th place.

The foreign minister has previously expressed concern about the ongoing situation in Belarus.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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