PA OSCE calls for release of political prisoners in Belarus

PA OSCE Istanbul declaration on Belarus

At the 22nd Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, held in Istanbul from 29 June to 3 July 2013, the OSCE committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions adopted a following resolution on Belarus :

RESOLUTION ON BELARUS

1.    Recalling the resolutions on Belarus adopted by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), as well as the Joint Declaration of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus and the delegation from the Belarusian National Assembly on future co-operation signed in 2004 (Edinburgh),
2.    Noting the efforts of the OSCE Chairmanships in re-establishing the OSCE field presence in Minsk and in establishing a meaningful dialogue between OSCE institutions with Belarus as an OSCE participating State,
3.    Deploring the limited co-operation between the Government of Belarus and many of the OSCE’s institutions, as well as the limited co-operation with the OSCE PA Working Group on Belarus, which has not been invited to visit Minsk since 2010,
4.    Regretting that the nature of human rights violations in Belarus remain structural and endemic, underscored by the centralization of the legislative and executive powers in the office of the President, whose decrees are a key legislative mechanism in the country, undermining the role of Parliament,
5.    Welcoming the Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus of 18 April 2013,
6.   Noting the lack of progress in the investigations into the enforced disappearance of political opponents, including in the cases of Viktar Hanchar, Anatol Krasouski, Yury Zakharenko, and Dmitry Zavadsky dating back to 1999-2000,
7.    Regretting that elections in Belarus, including the December 2010 presidential election and the September 2012 parliamentary elections, have been neither free nor fair,
8.  Noting the United States Belarus Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2011 and the recent EU Council regulations and decisions concerning targeted measures against officials and companies from Belarus,
9.    Condemning the executions of Uladzislau Kavalyou and Dzmitry Kanavalau, sentenced to death for their alleged involvement in the April 2011 metro bombing in Minsk, through a trial that fell short of international standards for the rule of law, the subsequent destruction of key evidence in these cases and the inhumane treatment (including police surveillance) of the families, whereby the bodies of the two men have not been returned to their relatives, as well as a new death sentence issued in April 2013 on the part of Mahiliou Regional Court,
10.  Deploring the restrictions placed on freedom of assembly, including a near de facto ban on picketing, demonstrations and meetings by civil society and opposition groups,
11.   Noting that many civil society and media representatives have fled Belarus since December 2010 to seek asylum abroad, and urging the authorities in Belarus to ensure conditions for their safe and voluntary return,
12.  Expressing deep concern over the confiscation of property and the closing of the office of the non-government organization Human Rights Centre Viasna in Minsk, and the continued incarceration of the organization’s leader Ales Bialiatski on politically- motivated charges,
13.   Deeply regretting the lack of media freedom in Belarus, including increasing instances of harassment of journalists, restrictive laws with regard to broadcasting and internet freedom, as well as selective application of justice with regard to independent journalists,
14.   Noting the report of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association in November 2012, underlining the Belarusian government’s lack of co- operation and the lack of progress with regard to improving the situation of trade union rights in the country,

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly:

15.    Calls on the Government of Belarus to release and exonerate all political prisoners in Belarus, including those given suspended sentences and those whose freedom of movement has been limited, immediately and unconditionally, and to guarantee the full restoration of their civil and political rights;
16.    Reiterates its calls on the Government of Belarus to allow representatives of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to visit political prisoners incarcerated in Belarus;
17.    Condemns the treatment of political prisoners, including political opponents, human rights defenders and activists, incarcerated on politically motivated charges, and in many cases denied regular access to their lawyers and relatives, as well as other degrading treatment amounting to torture;
18.    Urges the Government of Belarus to suspend any restrictions on movements imposed on members of the opposition who have been given a suspended sentence after politically motivated    trials,    including    Irina Khalip,    Vladimir Neklyaev,    Vitalyi Rymashevsky, Sergei Vozniak, Andrei Dmitriev, Alexander Feduta and others;
19.    Сalls on the authorities to reinstate the licenses of the lawyers disbarred or forced to resign under pressure for their defence of opposition and civil rights activists, and to guarantee the principle of independence of practice in particular seizing illegal limitations on communication with mass media;
20.   Calls on the Belarusian authorities to respect freedom of movement of its citizens, including political activists, in Belarus and abroad, and to stop the widespread practices of arbitrary detention;
21.    Condemns the adoption of a series of repressive laws in Belarus, restricting fundamental rights to freedom of assembly, expression and association, and giving additional powers and immunity from prosecution to State Security Committee (KGB) officers;
22.   Encourages the authorities to reconsider the registration applications of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party, the “Tell the Truth!” and “For Fair Elections!” campaigns, “Malady Front” (Youth Front), and the non-governmental organization Viasna, which have been repeatedly denied legal registration without due cause;
23.   Calls on the authorities to suspend the harassment and persecution of civil society, such as representatives of youth organizations and movements, trade unions, independent media and human rights defenders;
24.   Calls on the Belarusian authorities to co-operate closely with the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media to develop a media law reflecting OSCE commitments and principles;
25.   Reiterates its call on the authorities to implement the recommendations of the International Labour Organization with regard to trade unions, and to ensure that workers are able to freely leave their jobs, including in State industries;
26.   Calls on the authorities to strengthen anti-discrimination legislation, including ensuring safeguards to prevent harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and associations;
27.   Encourages the Government to consider substantive legislative reforms to bring the country in line with European standards, including correcting the imbalance of power in favour of the executive, vested in the country’s 1996 Constitution, with a particular focus on reducing the dependence of the judiciary on the executive branches;
28.   Calls on the authorities to co-operate closely with OSCE institutions in addressing the Organization’s election-related recommendations ahead of the upcoming local and municipal elections;
29.   Calls on the authorities to take the necessary steps to make full use of the European Dialogue on Modernization and on the European Union to strengthen such initiative;
30.   Calls on the authorities to annul convictions and pending charges against journalists for activities connected with their profession and to allow an unrestricted public debate on key social and political issues;
31.    Calls on the authorities to abolish Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code, which envisages a punishment of up to two years for “acting on behalf of an unregistered organization,” and violates the right to freedom of association, as well as other OSCE commitments;
32.   Recommends that the International Ice Hockey Federation ensures that Article 8 of its Statute, guaranteeing neutrality in political, racial, gender and religious matters is thoroughly respected;
33.   Urges the Government of Belarus to respect its OSCE commitments with regard to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, and to liberalize both legislation and practices, allowing citizens the right to public protest both online and offline;
34.   Calls for an international investigation into the treatment of political prisoners incarcerated in Belarus, including allegations of torture by current and former prisoners like Ales Mikhailevich, Andrei Sannikov and Anatol Liabedzka;
35.   Urges the Government of Belarus to immediately withdraw all issued death sentences, and to work to abolish the death penalty;
36.   Urges the Government to ensure conditions where religious organizations, including those of the Protestant faith, as well as the Union of Poles in Belarus can operate in accordance with national legislation.

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