Liberal Youth have submitted an Emergency Motion on the worsening situation in Belarus. It has been rejected as an Emergency Motion by the body responsible, the Federal Conference Committee.
The Federal Conference Committee receives many decent and worthwhile motions, certainly more than we have time for, but I feel that this needed to be written. It underpins exactly why this motion needed to be debated.
Liberal Youth recently sent off an Emergency Motion on Belarus; given the pre-election crackdown in Belarus, it seemed the right time for our party to discuss what is happening in the country. The past two months have seen the situation worsen with little UK media coverage.
Yet this motion was rejected. Why? Because, according to the FCC, nothing has happened since the 4th of July, which was the deadline for ordinary motion, to suggest that this is an ‘emergency’ and worthy of debating as an emergency motion.
Surely, the fact that FCC are unaware of what has been happening in Belarus for the past two months has further proved the urgency of raising awareness within the party. So, for those unsure of anything that has happened in the country since July, here is a short guide to the recent actions of Alexander Lukashenka – Europe’s Last Dictator:
3) Social Media administrators arrested and beaten, with personal stories of near death torture until they gave up their passwords
6) There already political prisoners who face torture every day for speaking out against the regime, more have been arrested
7) Liberal Youth launched their Bears For Belarus campaign, receiving over 20,000 views worldwide, gaining international media coverage and many politician pictures of support.
These are but a few events that have happened since the 4th July.
The death penalty still exists in the country, prisoners face the same torture tactics used by Stalin’s KGB and journalists write in fear of upsetting Lukashenka and being imprisoned.
With parliamentary “elections” happening this Sunday in Belarus, it is relevant and necessary to debate and pass Liberal Democrat policy on this issue. Yet FCC has decided this atrocious situation in Belarus is not urgent enough to warrant an Emergency Motion. To have a dictatorship worsen, by the month, on our own doorstep is, apparently, not an emergency. To have a country in Europe with no human rights is no emergency. It can wait until Spring, right?
Let it wait until Spring, when yet more young protesters campaigning for the same ideals we do are imprisoned and tortured without being properly denounced by a UK political party. Let Belarus continue to supply Syria with arms, and while we are at it, let us continue to watch Belarus have staged elections during the time of our Conference in Brighton.
I was outraged and embarrassed at this decision. Liberal Democrats have a proud past of leading the way on international issues and human rights. From Lloyd George on the Boers to Kennedy on Iraq war, we have lead that call for liberal foreign policy when at times it has not been all that popular. Yet our elected and supposedly policy-aware body had no clue of these events on our doorstep.
Nick Clegg has recently said “if we do not tell our story, then no one will”.
Well if the Liberal Democrats do not raise awareness of Europe’s Last Dictatorship, then who will? We can’t trust the Tories or Labour to bring up an issue that serves no self-interest to them. It is our duty.
If FCC would like to know anymore on the situation in Belarus since the 4th July then I will of course tell them of the personal horror stories I have been told by activists in the country. I hope we eventually get a reply to our appeal email which stated all these events, and show they are accountable to members. FCC has itself made the case clear for why this should be debated. It is an embarrassing decision which shows exactly why this cause is so needed. The campaign against Europe’s Last Dictator continues, with or without the support of Conference.
Sam Fisk is International Officer of Liberal Youth and Liberal Youth member at the University of York .
This blog should not be taken to necessarily represent the views of the editorship of the Libertine.