Valiantsin Stefanovich: We call on the Belarusian Governmental to cooperate with the UN as actively as we do
On 11 February, human rights defenders presented their report on the procedure of the Universal Periodical Review of Belarus in the UN Human Rights Committee.
The Universal Periodical Review, to which Belarus prepares now, is a mechanism of the Human Rights Council, within the frames of which the Council holds regular reviews of implementation by 192 UN member countries of their obligations in the sphere of human rights.
Holding of the Universal Periodical Review for Belarus is scheduled for 12 May 2010. In the run-up to it, representatives of the Belarusian NGOs held several meetings with state officials including MFA officers and Natallia Piatkevich, first Deputy Chairperson of Presidential Administration.
Valiantsin Stefanovich, lawyer of the HRC Viasna, described the procedure of the UPR:
This year Belarus will for the first time pass the procedure of the Universal Periodical Review in the UN Human Rights Council. This procedure was established as a result of reformation of the UN consisting in the establishment of the Human Rights Council and liquidation of the institution of special rapporteur on human rights for separate countries. It’s worth noting that this procedure must be passed by all member countries of the UN. Some of them have already done it last year and others are doing it this year. This allows avoiding the problem of politicization and double standards: now one can’t say that there are criticized countries and countries that criticize. At present all countries are obliged to pass this procedure: the US, the UK, Germany, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and… Belarus. This allows considering the human rights issues of each country in the Human Rights Council – the supreme UN institution on human rights.
Last autumn representatives of the Belarusian NGOs had the opportunity to familiarize with the procedure of passing the UPR on the example of the North Korea, which was quite interesting as this country has big problems with human rights, and the situation there is incomparably worse than that of Belarus.
The essence of the procedure is that a country’s MFA must present a report on human rights and delegations of the member countries of the UN Human Rights Council ask questions concerning human rights and make certain recommendations for each particular country. A country can accept or decline these recommendations, with or without explaining the reasons.
Taking into account that recommendations can be issued to our Government only by national delegations of other countries, we worked out 47 points, which we will propose to the national delegations to the UN Human Rights Council so that they could voice these recommendations to the Belarusian delegations during the consideration of the UPR. Thereupon, we scheduled a number of campaigns including a briefing for foreign Ambassadors in Belarus (and also for the Embassies that work with Belarus but don’t have representations in the country) and a working mission of representatives of our NGOs to Geneva for meeting the national delegations. The procedure provides that during the preparation of the UPR a state should hold wide and substantial consultations with NGOs, which, in their turn, have the right to present information to the UPR.
Bear in mind that the Belarusian NGOS including the HRC Viasna have always actively used the UN mechanisms (twice presented alternative reports to the Committee against Torture, and to the UN Human Rights Committee – on implementation of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; submitted communications to the UN Human Rights Committee and continue assisting other people in lodging individual communications with it), because it is the only international mechanism of human rights protection accessible to us. We call on the Belarusian Government to cooperate with the UN as actively as we do.