International Helsinki Federation and Belarusian Helsinki Committee Speak against Election of Belarus to UN Human Rights Council

2007 2007-05-14T10:00:00+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”


The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC) appeal to the UN General Assembly not to elect Belarus to the UN Human Rights Council on 17 May in view of the Belarusian government’s failure to fulfill even the minimum criteria established by the General Assembly for this position.

Since 1995, the IHF has worked intensively together with the BHC to monitor and promote human rights in Belarus. For this legitimate work the BHC has faced constant persecution by Belarusian authorities, including attempts to close the organization and politically-motivated legal cases against its members.

Belarus has the worst human rights record in Europe. It cannot be expected to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights on an international level before it is willing to show respect for these rights at home. Electing Belarus to the Human Rights Council would seriously harm the body’s credibility and water down its attempts to work seriously,’ said Aaron Rhodes, the IHF executive director.

UN General Assembly resolution 60/251, which established the Human Rights Council, requires that the Council’s members ‘fully cooperate with the Council’ and ‘uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights’.

Upon announcement of its candidacy for the Human Rights Council, Belarus’ government pledged its commitment to promote human rights and active, constructive and transparent cooperation with the UN special procedures. But these promises ring hollow in the light of Belarus’ complete failure to cooperate with the UN human rights mechanisms thus far and its widespread and systematic violations of the basic human rights and freedoms of its own citizens.

The government of Belarus has failed to promote human rights within the UN system, for example, by:

• systematically ignoring the UN human rights bodies’ resolutions on the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus;

• ignoring the views of the Human Rights Committee on individual complaints from Belarus;

• refusing any cooperation with UN special procedure mandate-holders, including the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus, whose all inquiries or recommendations the government has ignored;

• taking no measures to implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, as well as the recommendations by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, that were made to help improve the human rights situation in Belarus; and

• failing to submit periodic reports required under the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (due in 1999); under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (due in 2001); and under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (due in 2004).

What is more, the long-time and ongoing human rights practices by the government of Belarus are in blatant violation with the very standards it should promote as a member of the Human Rights Council. The violations include, for example:

• Failure to hold free, fair and democratic elections. The March 2006 presidential elections were characterized inter alia by harassment and detention of opposition candidates and their aides, heavily biased media coverage, lack of transparency in ballot counting, and other problems;

• Serious restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, which have had a chilling effect on journalism and have led to a very narrow spectrum of information in the media and absence of public discussion;

• Serious breaches of freedom of association and peaceful assembly. In 2006, more than 1,000 people were arrested on politically motivated charges, and human rights groups faced increasing harassment;

• Interference in the independence of courts, with the result that due process standards are routinely ignored; and

• Involvement by the highest state officials in disappearances of political figures in 1999 and 2000 and failing to investigate such cases.

The IHF and its affiliates have approached all UN member states on this issue and appealed to them to oppose Belarus’ election to the Human Rights Council.