Appeal of Human Rights Center Viasna to International Community The Human Rights Center Viasna urges the international community to abstain from including representatives of Belarus to the UN Human Rights Council until the Belarusian government demonstrates real respect to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Human Rights Center Viasna has sent the appeal to the interested parties which will make a decision about choosing a representative of Belarus to the UN Human Rights Council.
The appeal reads:
‘Due to the changes in the UN Human Rights Council and nomination of the candidacy of the Republic of Belarus for participation in this body 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 obligations in this field: in particular, the Republic of Belarus doesnot submit regular reports on the situation of human rights on the International Pact of Civil and Political Rights and ignores recommendations of the UN Committee on Human Rights concerning concrete facts of violations of citizens’ rights in Belarus. Moreover, the Belarusian government prevents the Belarusian society from familiarization with the recommendations of the UN Committee on Human Rights, thus also violating its international obligations.
- The Republic of Belarus is the only European country to issue and execute death sentences. This practice has been many times criticized by international human rights and humanitarian organizations.
- The freedom of speech in the Republic of Belarus is groundlessly and considerably restricted by the executive authorities. The system of distribution of printed editions is totally controlled by the administration and does not allow for distribution of the editions presenting a viewpoint different from the position of the Belarusian government. Television and radio are strictly censored. Investigation 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). Journalists often face criminal charges for their professional activity.
- The Republic of Belarus has no independent court system; all bodies of the judicial power are under direct control of the executive authorities.
- The religious freedom in Belarus is considerably restricted. In particular, religious activity without state registration of a religious organization 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 2004 the International Humanities Instituteand in 2003 – the National Humanities Lyceum were closed down as well.
- Non-governmental organizations and human rights activists are under constant pressure in Belarus. Every year the courts of Belarus rule to close dozens of NGOs. There is a criminal responsibility for acting on behalf of an unregistered organization in Belarus, providing for the penalty of imprisonment for up to two years.
- The freedom of peaceful assemblies is considerably restricted in the Republic of Belarus. The authorities hinder peaceful assemblies and manifestations, often violating their own very strict legislation on mass actions. There are also restrictions for peaceful assemblies behind closed doors.
- There are political prisoners in Belarus: the former presidential candidate nominated by the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Aliaksandr Kazulin, the political activists Andrei Klimau, Mikalai Statkevich, Pavel Seviarynets, Artur Finkevich, Zmitser Dashkevich, and others.
- The Belarusian government failed to solve the problem of violent disappearances: the Belarusian authorities take no real steps for revealing and convicting the individuals guilty of kidnapping oppositional politicians and a journalist.
For many years the above mentioned circumstances have been a basis for fair criticism of 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 above mentioned facts we conclude that the current situation of human rights in Belarus makes participation of representatives of the Republic of Belarus in the UN Human Rights Council impossible. Election of a representative of Belarus to the UN Human Rights Council will mean devaluation of this body and may deprive it of the possibility to implement its functions of defending the human rights and liberties. There are also serious apprehensions that participation of Belarus in the UN Human Rights Council will impede the developments of the humanitarian sphere in Belarus, and may not only prevent solution of the human rights problems inside Belarus but will lead to further deterioration of the situation of human rights organizations and activists in the country. We consider it absolutely inadmissible.
We perceive 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 desire 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 might lead to discrediting this body.
We urge the international community to abstain from including representatives of Belarus to the UN Human Rights Council until the Belarusian government demonstrates real respect of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.’