On 22 August, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka released all remaining political prisoners “for humanitarian reasons”, according to the Belarusian state news agency Belta. Lukashenka decided to pardon Mikalai Dziadok, Ihar Alinevich, Mikalai Statkevich, Yauhen Vaskovich, Artsiom Prakapenka and Yury Rubtsou. Both Belarusian and international human rights organizations, including Libereco, regarded the six as political prisoners of the East European authoritarian regime and had been demanding their release for several years.
The amnesty can be seen as Lukashenka’s signal and approach to the West, since the release of all political prisoners was a key point of criticism from the European Union. At the same time, the current processes could be seen as part of a wave of liberalization in advance of this year’s presidential elections on 11 October. However, all this must not obscure the fact that there are still too many violations of human rights and civil liberties in Belarus.
Even before the last presidential election in December 2010, the regime has been adopting a more liberal tone. This collapsed, however, with the crackdown on the election night demonstration and the accompanying arrest of all opposition candidates as well as around 700 demonstrators.