Human rights: Navalny in Russia, arrests in Belarus, child brides in Bangladesh
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Human rights: Navalny in Russia, arrests in Belarus, child brides in Bangladesh

The European Parliament urges the Russian authorities to release opposition politician Alexei Navalny and other detained demonstrators, condemns the crackdown on peaceful protestors and arrests of human rights defenders and journalists in Belarus, and calls on the government of Bangladesh to close loopholes in new legislation that provide legal authorisation for child marriage, in three resolutions voted on Thursday.

Russia: MEPs call for release of opposition politician Alexei Navalny

MEPs condemn the detention of opposition politician Alexei Navalny and hundreds of other protestors on 26 March 2017, during what were reckoned to be the largest protests in Russia since the anti-Kremlin demonstrations in 2011 and 2012. They call on the Russian authorities to release and drop the “politically motivated” charges against all detainees and to uphold the basic freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.

Between 33,000 and 93,000 people took part in the anti-corruption demonstrations initiated by Alexei Navalny’s organization in over 80 cities. Parliament expresses support for Mr Navalny’s initiative to combat corruption and condemns “constant efforts to silence” him, while calling on the Commission, the EEAS and the member states to take action against any attempted money laundering or illegal assets inside the EU and send a “strong common message” on the role of human rights in the EU-Russia relationship.

MEPs further voice doubts about the independence and partiality of the judicial institutions of the Russian Federation and urge them to carry out their duties free of political interference. They call on the Russian authorities to put an end to the harassment, including at judicial level, of journalists, political opponents and political and civil society activists and to fully respect international human rights obligations and the rule of law.

Belarus: Parliament protests against mass arrests

Parliament condemns the “crackdown on peaceful protesters” in mass demonstrations by thousands of citizens across Belarus, in particular on Freedom Day (25 March), when security forces violently attacked and beat protesters and arrested hundreds of people, including domestic and foreign journalists reporting on the events. The protests were directed against the adoption of a Presidential Decree introducing a so-called “social-parasite tax”, designed to penalise unemployment with fees and forced labour.

MEPs express concern over the latest developments and a “new wave of repression” in Belarus, which includes raids on civil society organisations and “preventive” arrests of opposition members before protests. They see a “clear need for a broader democratisation process in the country” and call on the Belarusian authorities to release everyone detained in the course of the protests, to stop the harassment of independent media and civil society and to allow public organisations to function fully.

Parliament further recalls that the EU lifted most of the restrictive measures against Belarusian officials in February 2016 “as a gesture of goodwill to encourage Belarus to improve its human rights, democracy and rule of law record”, and warns that in the event of failure to carry out thorough and impartial investigations into all allegations in connection with the recent demonstrations, the EU may impose new restrictive measures.

Bangladesh: new law must outlaw all marriages involving children, say MEPs

MEPs note with concern the adoption of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, which has loopholes providing for “legal authorisation for child marriage” in Bangladesh, the country with the highest rate of child marriage in Asia. The Act allows exceptions to the minimum age of marriage of 18 for women and 21 for men to be made in “the best interests” of the adolescent in “special cases” but fails to lay down criteria or to make the adolescent’s consent mandatory.

Parliament reaffirms its condemnation of all cases of forced and child marriage and calls on the government of Bangladesh to amend the Act so as to close the loopholes and outlaw all marriages involving children. It is worried by the “step backwards for Bangladesh in its efforts to eliminate child marriage” and urges the government of Bangladesh to commit to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including ensuring gender equality and women’s rights.