Former Belarus presidential candidate to appear before committee: MP Peter Goldring to lead questioning

November 29, 2011

Ottawa - Peter Goldring will ask former Belarusian presidential candidate Ales Michalevic if recent incarcerations of opposition politicians in Belarus, Ukraine and other former Soviet countries are signs of a slide from democracy into totalitarianism.

Mr. Michalevic is to appear before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on Thursday December 1, 2011. Mr. Goldring, Member of Parliament for Edmonton East and vice-chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Group is a member of the Committee and will be taking the lead on the questions

“Looking at Eastern Europe it seems to me there’s a lot of Soviet-style political chicanery going on,” Mr. Goldring says. “Recently Ales Byalyatski, a long-time human rights defender and head of the human rights organization Vyasna has been convicted in Belarus. Before that was the case of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine. Both trials seem to me to have been politically motivated, and both these people are political prisoners. Both trials were described as not meeting any reasonable standard of process.”

Ales Michalevic himself was arrested, charged with organizing mass riots, and jailed immediately following the 2010 presidential election, where he received about one per cent of the vote in an election that international observers as fraudulent. He was one of seven presidential candidates arrested (along with a reported 700 opposition political activists and 25 journalists). He was released from prison in February 2011 and is now living in exile.

“The activities in Belarus and Ukraine look to be a disturbing retrograde trend,” Mr. Goldring says. “When the Orange Revolution took place in Ukraine in 2004 the people had high hopes for a democratic future. Recent events certainly call into question whether countries like Ukraine and Belarus can even legitimately refer to themselves as democracies. In a democracy opposition politicians aren’t jailed and tortured for being opposition politicians. I look forward to hearing Mr. Michalevic’s story first hand.”

Mr. Goldring previously announced that he will bring the matter to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) annual Parliamentary Assembly when it is held in July 2012.

“This is a matter of grave concern to all countries, and an international airing of the issue in this 56-country organization is necessary. Belarus and Ukraine are both OSCE members, and the other countries of Europe and North America need to call them to account for their actions. Democracy requires a free exchange of ideas. Democracy is not the jailing of opponents on trumped-up charges to make life easier for those in power.”