Belarusian NGOs and international community discuss the situation of human rights in Belarus
Representatives of the Belarusian NGOs held a number of events on 12 May in Geneva that were connected with the report of the Belarusian authorities within the guidelines of the procedure of the Universal Periodical Review at the UN Human Rights Council.
Representatives of the Human Rights Center Viasna, Ales Bialiatski and Valiantsin Stefanovich, and a representative of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Hary Pahaniaila, organized a briefing dedicated to the situation of human rights in Belarus.
The human rights defenders told foreign journalists about the problems that were described in the Materials of Belarusian NGOs, prepared for Universal Periodical Review on Belarus at the UN Human Rights Council. This corpus of materials concerning the implementation by Belarus of its international undertakings in the sphere of human rights was prepared by experts of such NGOs as Viasna, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Belarusian Association of Journalists and the Belarusian Assembly of Pro-democratic NGOs. Some time ago these materials were passed to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
During the briefing, the human rights defenders also distributed the joint statement of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center Viasna of 6 May concerning the criminal case of Mikalai Autukhovich.
Another event, organized by the Assembly of NGOs in cooperation wit the international network of civil organization Civicus and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was dedicated solely to the question of freedom of associations in Belarus and punishment for activities on behalf of unregistered organizations under Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code of Belarus. The Belarusian side was represented by Yury Chavusau (the Assembly of NGOs), Volha Smalianka (the Fund of Legal Technologies), Enira Branitskaya (the Committee to Protect Victims of Repressions Salidarnasts), Ales Bialiatski and Valiantsin Stefanovich (Viasna). The present public included representatives of MFAs of the member states of the UN Human Rights Council and NGOs that paid interest to the human rights issues in Belarus.
At the beginning of the event, Ales Bialiatski outlined the general situation of freedom of associations in Belarus. Valiantsin Stefanovich presented an analysis of the practice of use of Article 193.1 and the number of the persons who were punished under it. Enira Branitskaya spoke about her own experience: in 2006 she was convicted for 6 months in connection with her activities on behalf of an unregistered organization, Partnership. Volha Smalianka exposed the juridical essence of this article and Yury Chavusau told the audience about the Stop 193.1! campaign in Belarus.
The human rights defenders noted the interest of the international community to a wide array of problems.
’We were asked about our expectations from the Universal Periodical Review. I answered that the very fact that Belarus is heard at such a high level, at the UN Human Rights Committee, is very important for us, especially due to the fact that so far the Belarusian authorities haven’t twice presented reports on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, missed several deadlines for reporting to the Committee on Torture and don’t implement the decisions of the Human Rights Committee on individual communications,’ said Valiantsin Stefanovich. ‘I also pointed that it was very important for us to know what recommendations will be given to Belarus and how they will be accepted, as the government has the right to decline recommendations. Nevertheless, we showed that we are open for discussing the raised problems with the authorities and hope they will take some steps in this direction.’