Mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus extended for one year

The United Nations Human Rights Council has extended the mandate of Miklos Haraszti for one year.

Members of the UN Human Rights Council voted today in Geneva on extending or ending the mandate of UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklos Haraszti.

Delegations of 26 countries voted in favour of extending Miklos Haraszti’s report, 3 countries (India, Kazakhstan and Venezuela) voted against and 18 abstained. Under the rules, such decisions are taken by a simple majority vote.

In the resolution (A/HRC/23/L.18) on the situation of human rights in Belarus, the Council “expresses deep concern at continuing violations of human rights in Belarus and the systemic and systematic restrictions on human rights; calls upon the Government of Belarus to carry out a comprehensive review of relevant legislation to ensure that the provisions are clearly defined, consistent with international human rights law and their human rights commitments, and to carry out a comprehensive reform of the justice sector and bar associations; strongly urges the Government of Belarus to immediately and unconditionally release and rehabilitate all political prisoners, to address reports of torture and ill-treatment by law-enforcement officials.

The Council decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus for a period of one year, and requests the Special Rapporteur to submit a report to the Council at its twenty-sixth session and to the General Assembly at its sixty-ninth session; urges the Government of Belarus to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur; and requests the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the Special Rapporteur with the assistance and resources necessary to allow the fulfilment of the mandate”.

Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, introducing resolution L. 18, said that human rights violations in Belarus were found by the Special Rapporteur to be serious, systematic and systemic.  The list of the human rights violations referred to in the resolution was long but not exhaustive.  There were particular concerns about the continuing application of the capital punishment in the country, which could not be justified under any circumstances.  Moreover, there was a complete lack of transparency surrounding the circumstances of those facing the death penalty in Belarus, the only European country still applying the death penalty.  The European Union urged Belarus to place a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.  The continuing lack of cooperation of Belarus with the mechanisms of the Council was another matter of concern.  In light of the deplorable human rights situation in the country, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur provided an important source of information on the human rights situation in Belarus and, therefore, his mandate should be renewed.

United States, speaking in a general comment, said that it was pleased to support the draft resolution, which underscored the fundamental need for structural changes in a country where the situation of human rights was deplorable, and supported the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.  However, the United States did not share the view that the death penalty constituted a violation of human rights and said that any decision to abolish the capital punishment should be left to the people of Belarus to make by following democratic processes.  Nevertheless, Belarus should release immediately and unconditionally all political prisoners, should provide fair trial guarantees, and should protect the right to appeal.

Belarus, speaking as the concerned country, said that Belarus cooperated with the Office of the High Commissioner, the treaty bodies and with the thematic Special Procedures. Belarus made a request to Members of the Council not to support this resolution. The draft submitted called for the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. This was a political mandate and Belarus did not recognise it. Belarus saw no prospects for cooperation with this mandate. Behind the concern for human rights stood the clear political interest of the European Union, which sought to impose a vision of how a State should be domestically organised and which proposed that recommendations of a political nature be implemented.  Belarus would not accept the tyranny of the democracy of others.  Belarus knew how and what to do to promote and protect human rights.

Venezuela, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said it rejected and condemned with great energy the double standards shown in the proliferation of specific mandates against countries.  Ecuador said that it objected to the proliferation of resolutions on specific countries and that it was regrettable that the Council was being used to target countries in that way.


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