Valiantsin Stefanovich: ‘There’s a danger that human rights can be forgotten in the political game’
Now, after an oil conflict with Russia, a strange situation exists in Belarus. Lukashenka is in a feverish search of a way out of the crisis and speaks about the possibility of negotiations with the EU. On one hand, he declares readiness to negotiations and dialogue while on the other the situation of human rights doesn’t really change.
In his interview a correspondent of Euramost.org asked a human rights activist Valiantsin Stefanovich about it.
- Lukashenka states his readiness to negotiations with the West. Has the situation of human rights changed in relation to this?
- No, nothing changes. There are no improvements. The latest events, such as detention of Young Front activists in a private apartment following initiation of a criminal case against Korban and Khvedaruk, witness it. The authorities continue their repressive policy. In this situation the oppositional politicians have taken a number of interesting steps… For instance, a letter by Aliaksandr Milinkevich, addressed to Lukashenka. In this letter Mr. Milinkevich says he is ready to use all efforts and authority to attract investments to Belarus. Or take the proposal to celebrate the Freedom Day 25 March together…
- What bothers you most in this situation?
- There’s a danger that human rights can be forgotten in this political game. The history knows cases when because of ‘certain interests’ the West closed eyes to what was happening in other countries.
- But may be Lukashenka is really ready to changes?
- When reading his interviews to the European press I have a weird feeling. It can be understood that the man is even mentally unprepared not only to changes, but even to their imitation. He doesn’t understand the essence of what needs changes.
- What’s the position of human rights activists in this situation?
- Our position remains unchanged – we will speak about the real situation of human rights as it is. And no steps for its improvement have been taken… That’s why I am categorically against any negotiations…
- What if all political prisoners will be released at once?
- Of course it would be good and could be viewed as a step forward, but it wouldn’t result in a fundamental change of the situation of human rights, because human rights violations have acquired a systematic order and reflected in the legislation. The ‘field of freedom’ has become utterly small.
- Valiantsin, you have participated in human rights movement since 1998… To you mind, how does the situation in the field of human rights in the middle of the 1990-ies differ from the present one? Weren’t the repressions more violent in the 1990-ies?
- In the middle of 1990-ies Lukashenka violently struggled for power. This struggle was accompanied with arrests and even kidnaps of well-known politicians. Then there came the period of the regime stabilization and repressions became systematic. There was established a certain legislative basis for them. Earlier we could only conditionally speak of existence of political articles in the Criminal Code (these were the articles that were used for political purposes), now we can speak about unconditional existence of such articles. Such articles as ‘defamation’ and ‘insult’ of president, ‘activity on behalf of unregistered organization’ and ‘discrediting of the Republic of Belarus’ are solely political.
Now we can openly speak about politicization of the Criminal Code and system nature of human rights violations in Belarus. Besides, the regime already has a whole ideological basis. Ideological workers are everywhere beginning with educational establishments and ending with state enterprises. May be human rights violations now are not as violent as in the middle of 1990-ies, but the authorities have developed a systematic approach to them.