Events in Belarus threaten Europe's security, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said on Friday at a United Nations Security meeting discussing the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus
Speaking after the meeting, Liimets said Estonia feels the responsibility to raise issues of regional security to the UNSC and to highlight the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus.
"Unfortunately we are seeing human rights deteriorating in the country and increasing repressions against Belarusian human rights activists, journalists and civil society organizations. It is extremely worrying that whereas in January we were speaking about 170 political prisoners, the number now exceeds 700," Liimets said.
"The largest independent union of journalists, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, has been shut down, and access to internet has been blocked."
Liimets called on Belarus to stop the violence and for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners. She said the international community must remain focused on the situation until the people of Belarus can truly exercise their rights and freedoms.
The meeting had a historic number of co-sponsors – 32 countries from five continents. Liimets said the record number of signatures shows how important the issue is.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said more than 35,000 people have been detained and sentenced in Belarus and almost 5,000 of them have reported torture and abuse at the hands of Belarusian authorities. More than 13,000 people have been forced to flee the country.
This is the third meeting about the situation in Belarus that Estonia has hosted as a non-permanent member of the UNSC. The country's term will end in December.
No further meetings are planned during the next three months, Liimets said but Estonia will continue to focus on its priorities areas, such as human rights, security and the situation in Afghanistan.
It is hoped Europe's security concerns continue to be high on the agenda and that Albania, who will replace Estonia, will push these issues.
Editor: Helen Wright