A joint letter from 11 EU member states on juvenile political prisoners in Belarus: Denying their rights to children means denying the future for Belarus
On 1 June, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Ministers responsible for youth affairs of 11 EU member states sent a joint letter to Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and members of the European Commission responsible for youth, democracy and the dissemination of values, calling to action for human rights of juvenile political prisoners in Belarus and for a release of the detained and incarcerated minors.
“Lukashenko's regime does not shy away from treating teenagers as a tool to pressure their parents who are being threatened with losing custody over their children for taking part in the ongoing protests. Furthermore, Belarusian minors are becoming the targets of political repressions themselves. Denying their rights to children means denying the future for Belarus,” Ministers of 11 EU member states write in the letter that was initiated by Lithuania.
The letter was signed on behalf of Lithuania by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis and the Minister of Social Security and Labour Monika Navickienė.
As the number of political prisoners in Belarus has reached record-high, exceeding 400, Ministers also higlight that there are at least 7 juvenile political prisoners in the country:
Siarhei Hatskevich, 17, sentenced to 3 years in juvenile detention centre;
Dzmitry Khars, 17, sentenced to 1 month in prison;
Dzianis Khazei, 17, sentenced to 3 years in juvenile detention centre;
Eduard Kudyniuk, 17, sentenced to 3 years in juvenile detention centre;
David Zbaranski, 17, detained and kept in pre-trial detention centre;
Nikita Zolotarev, 17, detained on 11 August 2020 at the age of 16 and sentenced to 5 years in juvenile detention centre, despite his serious illness;
Vital Prokharau, just turned 18, detained on 8 February 2021 and sentenced to 2 years in juvenile detention centre.
International Day for Protection of Children is celebrated on 1 June. According to Ministers, every child has the right to grow up in a safe and inclusive environment. Regretfully, this is not the case in Belarus. Therefore, the EU Ministers call on the EU High Representative and the Commission to take action to promote the rights of the detained and imprisoned minors in Belarus. In addition, Ministers call on the EU to join forces with UNICEF, international NGO's and other international actors, and demand an immediate release of the above-mentioned teenagers and of all the detained minors.
The letter to Borrell and the Commission was signed by the Ministers of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Romania, and Slovenia.