European Parliament holds hearings on the situation with Human rights in Belarus

Belarusian Human Rights Defenders at European Parlament hearings

As part of a meeting of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights, on June 19 the European Parliament in Brussels held a discussion about the situation of human rights in Belarus and its draft recommendation regarding EU policy toward Belarus, which was prepared by Justas Paleckis.

Speakers included Elena Tonkacheva, head of the Legal Transformation Center, and Vladimir Labkovich, board member at the Viasna Human Rights Center.

Vladimir Labkovich characterized the situation with human rights as deteriorating and said that Belarus is experiencing an endemic and systematic crisis in this area. In his speech, he made special note of the situations with political prisoners, the mass media, and the judicial system, the ability to exercise civil and political rights, and also the death penalty.

Elena Tonkacheva pointed out erroneous conclusions drawn by Justas Paleckis in his draft recommendation regarding the supposedly improving situation of human rights and stated that it is very important to keep Belarus’s stance towards demands for system-wide changes on the agenda. They specifically noted that assessments of the current situation of human rights made by European experts cannot be based on comparisons with December 2010. This basis for comparison does not show that the situation is improving.

Elena Tonkacheva also noted the importance of cooperation between the EU and UN international institutions and particularly with Miklos Haraszti, UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus, and other special rapporteurs.

Elena Tonkacheva also said that the UN Special Rapporteur’s report and the resolution issued by the UN Human Rights Council should be taken into account when assessing the situation of human rights in Belarus. As she said in an interview with Euroradio,We believe that European structures must improve cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and rely on the conclusions and recommendations that he has made when assessing the situation of human rights. We also pointed out that a number of special rapporteurs from the UN Human Rights Council, including those on torture, the mass media, freedom of association, and arbitrary arrest have asked the Belarusian government to allow them to visit the country, but were never given permission to do this. We believe that everything possible should be done to insist that Belarus invite them.”

Reinhold Brender, a spokesperson for the European External Action Service, noted that any improvement in relations between the EU and Belarus will only be possible if political prisoners are freed and systematic changes are made in the area of human rights.

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