Human Rights House Network calls upon Belarus to take urgent measures to meet international human rights standards
On 22-23 September Vilnius hosted the 2010 Human Rights House Network (HRHN) Annual Meeting, a forum of cooperation between established and emerging Human Rights Houses, uniting 70 NGOs in 15 countries. The Meeting was attended by human rights defenders from 17 countries.
The participants of the Meeting released an appeal to the Belarusian President Aliaksandr Lukashenka, calling the Belarusian authorities to take urgent measures to meet international human rights standards.
Here is the full text of the statement:
To: Mr. Alexander Lukashenko
President of the Republic of Belarus
Fax: (375 17) 226 06 10
22 September 2010
Call upon Belarus to Take Urgent Measures to Meet International Human Rights Standards
We, the participants of the 2010 Human Rights House Network (HRHN) Annual Meeting,
express our deep concern about serious and systematic human rights violations in Belarus.
Belarus continues to ignore its international legal human rights obligations.
• Belarus fails to secure the rights and freedoms of its citizens, as safeguarded by the
international treaties it is a party to. The country’s existing legislation contains excessive
restrictions making it highly problematic to exercise these rights and freedoms;
• More than 11 years after the disappearances and suspicious deaths of well-known public and
political figures and/or journalists, no impartial and transparent investigation has been
• Opponents of the regime are subjected to criminal and administrative prosecution and the
country’s prisons hold a number of political prisoners;
• Belarus remains the only country in Europe and the post-Soviet region where the death
sentence is still used;
• The government retains an effective monopoly on information and upholds harshly
discriminatory practices against independent mass media and journalists. The President’s
Decree #60 Regarding Measures to Improve the Use of the National Segment of the Internet
constitutes a considerable threat to the right to obtain and spread information;
• The right to freedom of assembly and association is not respected, as underlined by the UN
Human Rights Commissioner for Human Rights at the 15th
session of the Human Rights
Council. The government continues to close down existing NGOs and deny registration to
emerging NGOs, while activities of unregistered NGOs ones are punishable under the Criminal
Law (Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code). 17 persons have been found guilty of violating this
article in the period of 2006-2009;
• Obstacles are created for the activities of human rights NGOs, since many of them have been
judicially deprived of their official status in recent years and forced to continue their work
under the risk of criminal prosecution. Human rights defenders are exposed to constant
pressure and intimidation as well as criminal and administrative prosecution.
• Belarus has repeatedly failed to submit periodic reports on a number of key United Nations
(UN) conventions and covenants. It has refused to cooperate with Special Rapporteurs, ignored
their recommendations and rejected most recommendations addressing pressing human
rights concerns, voiced by the UN Human Rights Council at the Universal Periodical Review.
Belarusian authorities have also dismissed decisions by the UN Human Rights Committee
following individual communications.
We would like to acknowledge a positive development. We welcome the human rights dialogue
between the Belarusian government and the European Union (EU). However, we are deeply
disappointed with the failure on the part of Belarus to meet preliminary EU requirements to include
the country in the Eastern Partnership program. Belarus has ignored the requirements to: 1) hold no
political prisoners; 2) ensure the freedom of media; 3) maintain the cooperation with the Organisation
for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on electoral legislation reform; 4) improve conditions
for NGOs’ activities; 5) secure the right to freedom of assembly and political associations.
We, therefore, call upon the government of the Republic of Belarus:
• To release political prisoners, restore the rights of those punished on the grounds of their
political opinions or public activism, and reinstate the expelled students and the dismissed
public and political figures;
• To conduct full, independent and impartial investigations of all disappearances and suspicious
deaths of public figures during the last 11 years; and identify and prosecute the perpetrators;
• To urgently exclude the use of capital punishment from the national legislation;
• To abandon the effective monopoly of information, ensure freedom of expression, and refrain
from using restrictive measures against independent media and freedom of expression,
particularly the Internet regulations of 2010;
• To repeal Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code, which provides for the imprisonment of up to two
years for those individuals who undertake activities on behalf of unregistered NGOs, political
parties or foundations;
• To abide by their human rights obligations by reconsidering its approach and take all
necessary measures to meet the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council and the
decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee;
Finally, we underline the need to run the upcoming presidential campaign and election in a free, fair
and competitive environment in accordance with the national law and the OSCE criteria for elections,
rather than in the usual atmosphere of fear and repressions.
Participants of the 2010 Human Rights House Network (HRHN) Annual Meeting
The Human Rights House Network is a forum of cooperation between established and emerging Human Rights Houses, uniting 70 NGOs in 15 countries. HRHN´s aim is to protect, strengthen and support human rights defenders and their organisations.