European Union and Belarusian regime started dialogue on human rights
On 16-17 June 2009, the European Union and Belarus held the first round of human rights dialogue in Prague.
The dialogue was held in a constructive and open atmosphere.
The dialogue allowed an exchange of views on the human rights situation both in Belarus and in the EU, focusing in particular on freedom of assembly and association, including labour rights, freedom of expression and information, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, combating different forms of intolerance and hate crimes, rights of migrants and persons belonging to minorities, combating trafficking of human beings, protection of different vulnerable groups, situation in prisons and detention facilities, death penalty.
Several areas of future cooperation and for further in-depth discussion were identified.
The day before the meeting a special session was dedicated to functioning of national institutions for the protection of Human Rights. This meeting featured the Office of Ombudsman in the Czech Republic.
During the talks, both sides raised individual cases of concern related to specific human rights issues in the EU and Belarus. These included freedom of media, expression, association and assembly.
The EU and Belarus discussed human rights cooperation within different international organisations, in particular the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly but also vis-à-vis the OSCE. They also addressed prospects for a rapprochement of Belarus to the Council of Europe.
In keeping with the EU’s practice of incorporating the voice of civil society into its meetings on human rights with third countries, the EU met with representatives of Belarusian NGOs and international NGOs prior to the consultations.