Joint oral Statement on Belarus at the 5th session of the Human Rights Council

Press release

Geneva, 12 June 2007. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) are strongly concerned over the grave situation of human rights in Belarus, which remains the worst in Europe.

The authorities of Belarus have increased repression against civil society. All major human rights organisations, except the Belarusian Helsinki Committee being under the constant harassment, have been closed down in recent years. Activists of “suspended” or “liquidated” organisations carrying out activities are liable to be sentenced to prison terms according to the Criminal Code of Belarus as amended in 2005. And many have been condemned so far. A law adopted in 2003 severely restricts the right to peaceful assembly and enables the authorities to arrest and prosecute participants to peaceful assemblies under administrative and criminal legislation. Additionally the freedom of the press has been seriously infringed upon: the independent media has been liquidated, journalists are arbitrarily detained, and many hurdles have been created to stop the free distribution of independent newspapers.

The mandate on Belarus was created in 2004 and renewed in 2005. In 2006, the General Assembly expressed its deep concern in the Resolution 61/175 and formulated recommendations to the Government of Belarus. Nonetheless Belarus has blatantly failed to cooperate with all UN human rights mechanisms:

- it has fails to comply with its reporting obligations with treaty monitoring bodies since the end of the 90s;

- it has failed to cooperate with thematic special procedures which requested visits - the requests for visit formulated by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders remain unanswered;

The Special Rapporteur on Belarus remains the only mechanism which can relay the concerns of the Belarusian civil society before the international community. This mechanism provides a voice to the victims and enables civil society to keep alive the hope that an improvement of the human rights record in Belarus is possible.

The Human Rights Council should not send the negative message to the international community that the muzzling down of civil society accompanied by the failure to cooperate with Human Rights Council’s country and thematic mandates and the failure to cooperate with treaty monitoring bodies can be rewarded by the discontinuation of the mandate on Belarus. This mandate should not be used as a bargaining chip in the institutional building process. Moreover in its Resolution [61/175] the General Assembly insisted that the Government of Belarus cooperate fully with all the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, in particular with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the country.

For these reasons we request the members of the Human Rights Council and all observer countries to:
maintain the consideration of the situation in Belarus on its agenda;
maintain a country mandate on Belarus;
call on Belarus to implement GA resolution 61/175 and to cooperate with UN mechanisms for the protection of human rights.

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