The UN Human Rights Council points (again) at Belarus

Press release
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(Geneva) Once again on the Human Rights Council’s agenda at its 35th session, the discussions on the worrying human rights situation in Belarus resulted on the adoption of a new resolution, supported by the majority of member States.

Renewing the scrutiny. This is what the Council was able to do this month by the adoption (18 votes in favor, 8 against [1]) of the resolution which renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti.

"Today’s resolution is an important signal sent to President Lukashenko, who has been in power for 23 years: you’ll remain under international scrutiny as long as you take no steps to guarantee the basic rights of your citizens"

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

It was one of the major issues at stake at this June session. The human rights situation in Belarus has significantly deteriorated in the past year, and civil society organizations were expecting a strong response from the Council.

The situation on the ground is described in the report published last April by Miklós Haraszti. The report was once again written without the UN Special Rapporteur being able to visit the country, meet and discuss with the authorities,the Rapporteur’s request for a visit having once again remained unanswered. His assessment of the situation has been informed by information provided by human rights actors on the ground, including the Human Rights Center “Viasna”. “Viasna”, a member organization of FIDH, is one of the most prominent human rights organizations in Belarus, whose registration the government continues to refuse.

Freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association continuously violated

One of the key themes of the resolution is without dispute the increased repression against the freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, a fundamental right constantly violated by the power in place. The excessive use of force by the police during the March 25th peaceful protests against the tax on employment, the reappearance of the practice of "preventive measures", such as preventive arrests or the police raid in the office of the Center “Viasna” are all sources of continued concern for the Human Rights Council. Intimidated, arrested without reason, harassed, or even threatened with physical or sexual violence... as stated by the Special Rapporteur, the objective of the government is to «silence the most vocal human rights defenders and political opponents».

Putting an end to the use of death penalty

Another crucial aspect of this resolution: death penalty. In the hope of seeing the European Union sanctions against them lifted, the authorities suspended executions in 2015. Immediately after the sanctions were lifted, executions resumed, with 4 carried out in 2016 and already one this year. Two other convicts are currently on death row. Needless to say that faire trial guarantees are not respected, the belarussian judiciary totally lacking independence.

A petition launched by HRC Viasna lfor the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus [2] has already gathered more than 16 000 signatures. The international community has condemned the resumption of executions, and the resolution now asks the Special Rapporteur to continue monitoring developments in this area, and to make recommendations.

Our organizations welcome the decision to keep the belarussian issue on the agenda of the Council, as well as the adoption of the resolution by a majority of member States, which will enable the international community to keep an eye on the situation in this country.

"The vote on Belarus showed the willingness of the Human Rights Council to push for progress at the national level. The ball is now in the government’s court. It is high time that it cooperates with the Special Rapporteur and other UN human rights mechanisms, and commits to the implementation of key recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur over the past years, which are a clear roadmap for human rights reform."

Ales Bialiatski, Former Vice-President of FIDH and President of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”
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