Belarusian-Russian human rights committee of the Russian President's Council starts work
The public Belarusian-Russian human rights committee of the Russian President's Council created in early June to promote civil society institutions and human rights published on 21 June its first document – an official statement, reports Radio Liberty.
This statement was approved by the Russian President's Council, with Ella Pamfilova at the head. It says that over the past few years the Belarusian law enforcement agencies have not been able to say what happened to the disappeared politicians. At the same time, political "cleansing" in Belarus continues. In penal facilities there are famous public statesmen and politicians, some have been convicted, while others will be tried in criminal courts.
"The fact that acting in violation of legal and ethical standards the authorities have in fact been ignoring the protest by the former deputy Siarhei Skrabiets who has been kept in custody for more than 30 days and keeps a hunger-strike", says the statement.
Hary Pahaniayla, deputy chair of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, a member of this committee, does not expect much when assessing the chances of finding the disappeared politicians, but believes that the very fact of cooperation with Russia over these issues is a good move.
The document says that the activity of the joint committee will focus on five areas. One of them is the election law in Belarus. Because Belarus avoided signing the CIS election convention, the minimal legal standards that would allow recognizing as democratic the Belarusian elections and referenda do not exist. Russia and CIS countries have never organized long-term observation of Belarusian elections and referenda.
Another important line of the committee's activity will be defending the freedom of the media. The statement claims that Belarus virtually does not have a functioning institute of non-governmental civil and political media. The Belarusian government stopped the operation of the Russia TV office in Belarus, several Russian TV journalists have been deported from Belarus over the past few years. On the whole the time Russian TV channels are allowed to broadcast their programs have been substantially reduced, some radio stations have been suspended, and some Russian newspapers now have problems with opening offices in Minsk.
Another line of the committee's activity is freedom of association. The statement says that the Belarusian government has been working toward gradual elimination of the normally operating independent civil and human rights groups.
The committee will protect the rights of Russians in Belarus and the rights of Belarusians in Russia. For example, Russians in Belarus cannot use the services of Russian lawyers, which substantially limits their right to legal defense. So far not a single organization has monitored the violation of the rights of Russians in Belarus and the rights of Belarusians in Russia, or protected these rights.
In its activity the committee plans to orient on the cooperation with broad sections of the Belarusian and Russian community. The sittings of the committee can be attended by interested representatives of civil and human rights organizations, official organs and experts from both countries. The international human rights center that acts under aegis of the Russian President's Council will be in charge of the committee activity. Sergei Karaganov and General Valery Pavlov, the coordinator of the relations between Belarusian democratic movements and Russia have been elected co-chairs of the committee. The committee is composed of several famous people from Russia and Belarus, including Russia's ombudsman for human rights Vladimir Lukin, who has an observer status.