Human Rights Defenders: mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus should be renewed

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Belarusian Human Rights Defenders hold briefing as part of the United Nations Human Rights Council Session that Opened on May 27 in Geneva.

This event was organized by the international human rights organizations Civicus, Human Rights Watch, FIDH, Amnesty International, and Human Rights House Network. Belarusian participants in the briefing included Oleg Gulak, Chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Tatyana Revyako, representative of the shuttered Human Rights Center Viasna, and Andrey Bastunets, an attorney from the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

In an interview with BelaPAN, Oleg Gulak said that the briefing attracted a great deal of attention. “Over 60 diplomats attended,” he said. “We told them about the situation in Belarus and about how we see it. We noted that even though there have been some positive moments, in general we are still experiencing fundamental difficulties, including problems with fair trials, freedom of speech, and freedom of association.”

Gulak also said that the human rights defenders stressed in their speeches that the situation in Belarus has not improved. In his own speech, he stated: “The situation has not improved. No systematic changes for the better have been made and the government has not sent any signals that it is prepared to observe human rights.

Additionally, Gulak noted that the Belarusian party specifically raised the issue of political prisoners and the death penalty in Belarus.

We also spoke about the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus. There are different feelings about him, and some groups refuse to work with him at all, but we believe that he offers the chance to stop talking about double standards and start talking about what is actually happening, how to resolve existing problems, and how to determine the best way for us to cooperate.

On June 4, the UN Human Rights Council will review a report on the situation in Belarus prepared by Special Rapporteur Miklós Haraszti.

The Belarusian government refused to cooperate with Mr. Haraszti, so he had to prepare his report without visiting the country. Instead, he had to meet with representatives of Belarusian opposition parties and social organizations, human rights defenders, and journalists outside the country.

Read a translation of this article in Russian.

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