Appeal of Human Rights Center Viasna to International Community
Human Rights Center Viasna urges the international community to refuse from including representatives of Belarus to the UN Human Human Rights Council till the Belarusian government demonstrates real respect to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Human Rights Center Viasna has directed this appeal to the interested sides which will decide on the choice of a representative of Belarus to the UN Human Rights Council:
‘Due to the renovation of the UN Human Rights Council and nomination of the candidacy of the Republic of Belarus for participation in this organ we consider it necessary to state the following:
- at present the Republic of Belarus demonstrates neglect of the values of human rights and violates its international undertakings in this field: in private, the Republic of Belarus doesn’t submit regular reports on the situation of human rights on the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and ignores the recommendations of the UN Committee on Human Rights concerning concrete facts of violations of civil rights in Belarus. Moreover, the Belarusian government prevents the Belarusian community from familiarization with the text of the recommendations of the UN Committee on Human Rights, thus also violating its international undertakings.
- The Republic of Belarus is the only European country to issue and execute death sentences. The practice of execution in Belarus has been many times criticized by international human rights and humanitarian organizations.
- The freedom of word in the Republic of Belarus is groundlessly and considerably violated by the executive power. The system of distribution of printed editions is totally controlled by the administration and doesn’t allow for distribution of the editions presenting a viewpoint different from the position of the Belarusian government. TV and radio are strictly censored. The investigations of the murders of journalists that took place in 2004 and 2005 gave no results. Every year dozens of journalists are arbitrary arrested in Belarus (in 2006 alone there were more than 40 such cases). Often journalists are even criminally persecuted for their professional activity.
- The Republic of Belarus has no independent court system, all organs of which are under direct control of the executive authorities.
- The religious freedom in Belarus is considerably restricted. For instance, religious activity without registration of a religious organization by the state is prohibited. As a result participants of unsanctioned liturgies are frequently arrested and foreign priests are deported.
- The academic liberties are absent in the Republic of Belarus – the state completely controls the work of the universities, appoints their rectors and determines the content of the educational programs which must include courses of the so-called ‘state ideology’ which is in fact propaganda of the authoritarian regime. In 2004 the authorities closed European Humanities University, which had to move abroad to continue its activity. In 2003 the National Humanities Lyceum and in 2004 – the International Humanities Institute were closed down as well.
- NGOs and human rights activists are under constant pressure in Belarus. Every year the courts of Belarus rule to close dozens of NGOs. For activity on behalf of unregistered organizations persons are imprisoned for up to two years.
- The freedom of peaceful assemblies in the Republic of Belarus is considerably restricted. The authorities hinder peaceful assemblies and manifestations, often violating even the strict Belarusian law on mass actions. The restrictions also concern peaceful assemblies behind closed doors.
- Belarus has political prisoners: the former candidate to the presidential position of Belarusian Social Democratic Party Aliaksandr Kazulin, the political activists Zmitser Dashkevich, Artur Finkevich, Andrei Klimau, Pavel Seviarynets, Mikalai Statkevich, etc.
- The Belarusian government failed to solve the problem of forced disappearances: the Belarusian authorities take no real steps for finding and conviction of the persons guilty in kidnapping of a number of oppositional politicians and a journalist.
For many years the abovementioned circumstances have been a basis for fair criticism addressed to the Belarusian government by the international community. The actions of the Belarusian authorities have been often condemned in resolutions of international institutions. The UN Commission on Human Rights appointed a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus. His reports witness the steady deterioration of the situation of human rights in the country and the reluctance of the Belarusian authorities to cooperate with international structures.
Taking into consideration the abovementioned facts we conclude that the current situation of human rights in Belarus makes impossible participation of representatives of the Republic of Belarus in the UN Human Rights Council. The election of a representative of Belarus to the UN Human Rights Council will mean devaluation of this organ and can deprive it of the possibility to implement its functions concerning defense of human rights and liberties. There are also serious apprehensions that participation of Belarus in the UN Human Rights Council will impede the development of the humanitarian sphere in Belarus ensuing in further deterioration of the situation on human rights organizations and activists in the country. We consider it absolutely inadmissible.
We perceive the nomination of the Republic of Belarus to the UN Human Rights Council as a political step of the Belarusian authorities aimed at overcoming the criticism of the international human rights community and having nothing in common with genuine wish to serve the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Only real actions for promotion of human rights can serve as a criterion for election in the UN Human Rights Council, whereas any other principle of its forming can lead to discrediting this organ.
We urge the international community to abstain from including representatives of Belarus to the UN Human Rights Council till the Belarusian government demonstrates real respect to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’