Many Belarusians have stereotypes about human rights defenders, survey suggests

2013 2013-10-28T14:23:44+0300 2013-10-28T14:23:44+0300 en

Many Belarusians have negative stereotypes about human rights defenders as a result of government propaganda, Aleh Hulak, head of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, said at the Third Belarusian Human Rights Forum in Vilnius on October 26.

Referring to the findings of a survey, Mr. Hulak said that a large share of the Belarusian public viewed human rights defenders as part of the political opposition who help political prisoners and receive foreign grants for the purpose, and offer no assistance to ordinary people.

He said that the majority of the respondents agreed that human rights work was important. More than 75 percent of the interviewed said that the most important human right was the right to life. Other important rights mentioned by the people were the right to free education, the inviolability of the person and residence, and the right to a well-paid job, according to Mr. Hulak.

Most of the interviewed meant personal security rather than the abolition of capital punishment when speaking about the right to life, said the activist.

Only 20 percent noted the importance of the right to a fair trial and freedom of speech, 15 percent mentioned the right to own property, less than nine percent the rights to freedom of religion and information, and only 7.5 percent the right to choose and control government.

As many as 42 percent expressed a high opinion of Belarus’ human rights record, compared with 39.4 and 35.7 percent who said that the human rights situation was good in Western Europe and the United States, respectively. Only 25 percent said that the human rights situation was good in Russia.

The figures suggest that many people in Belarus tend to believe government propaganda and have the wrong idea of human rights, Mr. Hulak concluded.