Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe about Situation in Bielarus
Situation in Belarus Provisional edition
Resolution 1306 (2002)
1. The Assembly recalls that the question of Belarus has been
on its agenda since September 1992. The special guest status
granted to the Parliament of Belarus was suspended in January 1997.
The Assembly however decided at that time to keep the channels of
contact open with all the political forces in Belarus and to closely
follow developments in that country. In January 2000, in its
Recommendation 1441, the Assembly considered that the political
evolution in Belarus was not yet of a nature to allow a change in the
relations with the Council of Europe.
2. The Assembly has since continued to do its best in order to
maintain dialogue with Belarus. The isolation of this country was not
considered a good policy and the Assembly has carefully .avoided
applying double standards in its evaluation of the situation in
Belarus. The Council of Europe standards as regards pluralist
democracy and the protection of human rights and individual
freedoms have constituted the principle yardstick in its evaluation.
3. Today, despite some progress in a number of areas, the
democratisation process in Belarus appears to stagnate. Moreover,
the relations between Belarus and the international community
remain strained. A key example is the tension between Belarus and
the OSCE due to a crisis over the mandate of the OSCE Advisory and
Monitoring Group (AMG) which culminated in the refusal by the
Belarussian authorities to issue visas to and accredit officials of the
AMG. The ad hoc Committee on Belarus of the Bureau expressed its
extreme preoccupation concerning the situation after its visit to the
country in June 2002.
4. The Assembly is seriously concerned about the lack of
progress regarding the cases of missing people. Despite assurances
by the Belarussian authorities about ongoing investigations into their
cases no reliable information let alone any concrete results are
available at present. The Assembly encourages the creation by its
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of an ad hoc sub
committee in order to help clarify the circumstances of these
disappearances and appeals to the Belarus authorities to provide this
ad hoc sub-committee with all necessary information.
5. Recent developments in Belarus also give rise to growing concern regarding freedom of expression and of the media. The independent media continue to be subject to increasing pressure and harassment from the Belarussian authorities. The recent convictions of journalists for their opinions are unacceptable. As regards the audiovisual media, the creation of a second semi-independent television channel has not yet delivered the results expected by the public. The new draft media law has not yet been adopted by the Parliament and the proposals made by the Assembly to the authorities to submit the draft law to the expertise of the Council of Europe has not been followed-up.
6. The Assembly notes with satisfaction the release from prison
of Mr Andrei Klimov, prominent businessman and opposition
politician, in March 2002, and urges the authorities to reconsider
other cases of imprisonment on political grounds, including those
relating to condemned journalists.
7. Having welcomed the earlier release from custody of Mr
Mikhail Chigir, former Prime Minister of Belarus, in its Resolution 1441
(2000), the Assembly notes with concern that Mr Chigir has been
sentenced in July this year by a district court in Minsk to a suspended
prison sentence of three years with the confiscation of his property.
The Assembly continues to be worried about the fairness of the trial
of Mr Chigir as well as the treatment of political opponents by state
authorities in general. It also expresses its concern regarding the
situation of independent trade unions.
8. The Assembly notes that a new awareness seems to be
developing in Belarus, in particular in parliamentary circles, on the
question of the abolition of the death penalty. It welcomes the
hearing on this issue organised by the Parliament of Belarus in May
2002 and notes the recommendations addressed by the Parliament to
the Government on the possibility of a step-by-step approach from a
moratorium regarding the death penalty to its eventual abolition with
the exception of some specific grave crimes.
9. At present, Belarus shows severe democratic deficits and it
does not yet meet the Council Europe's relevant standards. The
electoral process is imperfect, human rights violations continue, civil
society remains embryonic, the independence of the judiciary is
doubtful, local government is underdeveloped and, last but not least,
Parliament has limited powers. Although there is now a new
awareness among a group of parliamentarians as to an increase of
parliamentary competences, relations of the regime with foreign
powers, the EU and other international organisations remain tense.
10. Against this background, the Assembly considers that for the time being, a discussion on full membership of Belarus in the Council of Europe cannot be put on the agenda. However, depending on future developments regarding the competences of the Belarussian Parliament and its commitment to fostering democratic development in Belarus, the Bureau may reconsider the restoration of special guest status of the Parliament of Belarus in the Assembly.
11. In the meantime, co-operation between the Council of Europe and Belarus should continue and develop in specific areas such as parliamentary co-operation in the form of dialogue and organisation of joint seminars on specific topics, co-operation programmes targeted at local elected representatives regarding especially policy issues on education, employment, social security; co-operation with the Venice Commission with a view to improving concepts of governance; co-operation projects for the development of the civil society; legislative assistance with the laws on the media, religion, the Ombudsman and defamation and training programmes for journalists. In this connection the Assembly also draws the attention of member states to the importance of bilateral contacts at parliamentary level between member states and Belarus.
12. The Assembly also encourages the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights to pay particular attention to the situation in Belarus with a view to fostering respect for human rights in that country.
 Assembly debate on 27 September 2002 (32nd Sitting) (see Doc. 9543, report of the Political Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mr Behrendt and Doc. 9574, opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteur: M. Stankevic). Text adopted by the
Assembly on 27 September 2002 (32nd Sitting).