Official Minsk whitewashes itself before UN
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus has passed to the UN Human Rights Committee the National Report on the situation of fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens within the guidelines of the Universal Periodical Review, a procedure that had been established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2006. This is the first time that such a large document is received from Belarus. The report will be heard at the session of the Human Rights Council in May.
Independent human rights defenders already state that this document presents a false description of the human rights situation in the country.
The National report is mostly focused on social and economic rights, such as the right to education. It also includes some statements about civil and political rights, in which the official Minsk reassures the Human Rights Council that there are no problems with these rights in Belarus. According to the report, president is the guarantor of the rights and freedoms, the court system and the public institutions implement their functions and the country has a well-developed legislation in the sphere of human rights.
’The main drawback of this document is the reluctance of the authorities to admit at least any problems in the sphere of human rights’, states Aleh Hulak, Chairperson of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee.
’Naturally, it doesn’t reflect the real situation. No problem points have been marked there and nothing is said about the plans of the state concerning human rights in the near future, except for the intention to establish a civil-coordinative Council on human rights at the Presidential Administration. Nothing else can be found there, which is not good.’
Nevertheless, the real details of the situation of human rights in Belarus will be known to participants of the May sitting of the UN Human Rights Council from the Alternative report that was prepared by Belarusian NGOs including the Belarusian Helsinki Committee.
Representatives of NGOs consider some statements of the National report on human rights as an absolute false. In particular, the representative of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Andrei Bastunets disputes the statement that the new edition of the law On mass media extends the opportunities for registration of media and that state and private media have equal economical conditions.
’It would be ridiculous even to comment on it, as a half of private media still don’t have the possibility to use the state distribution nets, and the pressure on advertisers has been recently increased to make them refuse from putting their ads in independent media…’
Pavel Seviarynets, representative of the unregistered party Belarusian Christian Democracy, disproves the statements of the National report concerning the freedom of conscience.
’The words about freedom of associations is a bold lies. Diplomats, journalists and international observers became witnesses of the non-registration of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, the Human Rights Center Viasna, the Young Front, etc… Many people passed documents for registration of organization, hoping for liberalization, but there are almost no cases when the registration applications were granted. Registration of the For Freedom movement is an exception that confirms the rule.’
Pavel Seviarynets also regards as false the statements of the National report concerning the freedom of conscience and the equality of religious confessions. He reminds about the harassment of the Minsk Protestant community New Life as the most eloquent case of inequality.
Political scientist Yury Chavusau also pointed at some false information in the official report: in particular, that the number of NGOs increased by 20% in Belarus during the past year.
’The Belarusian authorities expect that the very fact of them presenting this report to the UN Human Rights Council will be treated very positively, like it happens to the reports of Eritrea and Northern Korea, who are praised for the very agreement to talk about human rights on their territory.’
Yury Chavusau pointed that the Belarusian authorities also mobilized the civil associations that are controlled by them. These organizations submitted letters to the UN Human Rights Council with assurances that everything is alright with human rights in Belarus.