Human Rights situation in Belarus in May 2013: consistently bad

human rights belarus review

Human rights center “Viasna” published its month review on human rights violations in Belarus during May 2013. Human rights defenders note no positive development in the human rights situation in Belarus, which remained consistently bad.

The absence of real mechanisms of influence on this sphere inside the country and its strong dependence on foreign factors created a situation where the greatest expectations were associated with external influences, especially concerning the release of political prisoners. However, intensive contacts of the Belarusian authorities with the European Union, its institutions and individual countries as well as with the United States didn’t bring perceptible results in this direction. 11 political prisoners were still kept in jail, 2 people continued serving terms of restriction of liberty without being sent to open penitentiaries, 8 still had suspended or conditional sentences, and Andrei Haidukou, the accused in a criminal case on high treason whose prosecution can be politically motivated, was still kept in the remand prison. There was no improvement in the observance of freedom of expression, assembly, association, and other rights and freedoms.

Human rights defenders also note that, in May, there was a serious reason to doubt the strong position of the European Union regarding the restoration of relations with the official Minsk only after the release of political prisoners.

The report, prepared by a member of the European Parliament Justas Paleckis for the European institutions, provoked strong criticism from the Belarusian human rights community. Particularly, the preliminary text of report noted, that the human rights situation in Belarus has improved, and therefore it is recommended to consider “the suspension of EU sanctions against the key Belarusian officials for the extension of the diplomatic channels of communication with Belarus taking into account the summit of the Eastern Partnership.” During the discussion of this report at a meeting of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament in Brussels on 29 May Justas Paleckis focused  on the fact that his report said nothing about lifting the sanctions against Belarusian officials and stated that the prerequisite for the restoration of contact with the Belarusian side, the release of political prisoners, remained unchanged.

An important event related to international assessment of the situation of human rights in Belarus, was the publication of the report of the UN special rapporteur Miklos Haraszti on 3 May. According to Mr. Haraszti, human rights are systematically limited, especially in the case of freedom of association, assembly and expression, as well as the right to the proper conduct of the trial and a fair trial. The Special Rapporteur noted the centralization of legislative and executive powers around the president. Miklos Haraszti expressed concern about the lack of rule of law in Belarus and the fact that the legal system can not be the guarantor of rights in the situations where it is contrary to the interests of the authorities. He highlighted the pressurization of human rights organizations, including in the form of the judicial liquidation of the human rights organization “Platform” and the confiscation of premises of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”. The report made recommendations to the Government of Belarus to improve the situation with the rights and freedoms of citizens. Haraszti called attention to the fact that he wasn’t allowed to visit Belarus to review the situation on the ground, as the Belarusian authorities refused to cooperate with him.

As for the Belarusian authorities, they demonstrated a further departure from the fulfillment of their international obligations. On 17 May Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich filed an appeal to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Uladzimir Makei in connection with the failure of the Belarusian state to implement the decision of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN in the case of Ales Bialiatski. In its decision of 31 August 2012 the Working Group recognized that the imprisonment of the head of the HRC “Viasna” and Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights Ales Bialiatski is arbitrary. However, the Belarusian side responded by saying that it saw no point in cooperation with the Working Group and accused it of political bias.

The review also gives very detail information on following points :

  • Political prisoners, criminal persecution of activists
  • Death penalty
  • Enforced disappearances
  • Activation of the pressure of security services on civic and political activists
  • Use of torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment
  • Administrative prosecution of political activists, arbitrary detention
  • Restrictions on freedom of speech and the right to disseminate information, harassment of journalists
  • Restriction of freedom of assembly
  • Restriction of freedom of association

See full text of review on human rights violations

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