Belarus still ignores decisions by UN Human Rights Committee

2013 2013-01-28T17:29:41+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Human rights defender Pavel Levinau

Human rights defender Pavel Levinau

The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refused to recognize another decision by the UN Human Rights Committee, says Vitsebsk human rights defender Pavel Levinau, who urged the Foreign Ministry to inform him when the officials would implement the Committee’s decision on his complaint, adopted at the 105th session of the Committee in July 2012.

Pavel Levinau applied to the Human Rights Committee after repeated bans on holding pickets issued by Vitsebsk city executive committee. Before that, he tried to challenge the bans in Belarusian courts, but without success. The human rights defender submitted nine communications to the Human Rights Committee, which corresponds to the number of prohibited pickets. Due to significant factual and legal similarities of all these communications, the Committee decided to combine them. The verdict by the UN HRC regarding Pavel Levinau’s case was as follows: by depriving the author of the right to freedom to freely disseminate information and ideas, Belarus violated Par. 2 Art. 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“The State party is under an obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy, which should include compensation as well as reimbursement of the legal costs paid by the author.  The Committee invites the State party to review the relevant legislation on the organization of public events with a view to aligning it with the requirements of article 19 of the Covenant. The State party should also ensure that no similar violations occur in the future,” reads the Committee’s decision.

The Committee urged the Belarusian authorities to provide within 180 days information on the steps taken to implement the Committee’s decision, to publish the views and disseminate them in the country in Russian and Belarusian.

180 days have passed. Nothing has been done by the Belarusian authorities. No compensation has been offered to Pavel Levinau, and, of course, the law on the organization of events has not been amended.

Unfortunately, it has become usual, that the authorities simply do not pay attention to the Human Rights Committee’s decisions. But now they have gone even further. In the course of the proceedings in the Committee the Belarusian side argued in the correspondence with the former that the communication submitted by Pavel Levinau had been registered allegedly in violation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol, and therefore, they said, there were no legitimate reasons for their consideration by the State party. It was also stated that States parties were not obliged to accept the rules of procedure and their interpretation of the provisions of the Protocol, and that the decisions taken by the Committee on these communications would be considered as “invalid” by the authorities.

This unprecedented treatment of the HRC’s decisions was reflected in the final document of the Committee on the matter: “The Committee recalls that article 39, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights authorizes it to establish its own rules of procedure, which the States parties have agreed to recognize. The Committee further observes that by adhering to the  Optional  Protocol,  a  State  party  to  the  Covenant  recognizes  the  competence  of  the Human  Rights  Committee  to  receive  and  consider  communications  from  individuals claiming to be victims of violations of any of the rights set forth in the Covenant (Preamble and art. 1). Implicit in a State's adherence to the Protocol is an undertaking to cooperate with the Committee in good faith.”

“It is incompatible with these obligations for a State party to take any action that  would prevent or frustrate the Committee in its consideration and examination  of  a  communication  and  in  the  expression  of  its  Views.  It  is  up  to  the Committee to determine whether a case should be registered. The Committee observes that by  failing  to  accept  the  competence  of  the  Committee  to  determine  whether  a communication  shall  be  registered  and  by  declaring  outright  that  it  will  not  accept  the Committee of admissibility and of the merits of the communications, the State  party  has  violated  its  obligations  under  article  1  of  the  Optional  Protocol  to  the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” stresses the Decision.

So far, all attempts by the United Nations to communicate with the Belarusian authorities and persuade them to respect their international obligations remain nothing but crying out in the wilderness. The authorities do not give up: “Your communications were registered by the Human Rights Committee in violation of ... the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights... The Committee was informed that the decisions taken on communications registered in breach of the Optional Protocol would be considered invalid,” says a letter to Pavel Levinau from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.