Constitutional Court supports human rights defenders on Belarusian-language legislation
On January 20, Piotr Miklashevich, Chairman of the Constitutional Court, said when presenting his annual address for the President of Belarus and the two Houses of Parliament “On constitutional legality in the Republic of Belarus in 2014” that the Court considers it appropriate to issue laws in the Belarusian and Russian languages, the government-owned news agency BelTA said today.
“The Constitutional Court believes that for the sake of ensuring free access to justice it is appropriate to issue legislation affecting the rights and freedoms of citizens in the two official languages – Belarusian and Russian, in accordance with the provisions of Article 17 of the Constitution on the equality of the two official languages” said Miklashevich.
“Our Constitution guarantees the equality of the two languages... Some people still remember that in the Soviet times we had codes consisting of two parts. The first had rules in the Belarusian language, and the other – in Russian,” said the Chairman of the Constitutional Court.
Piotr Miklashevich said that the Constitutional Court drew attention to the fact that at the state level measures were taken for the further development of the Belarusian language. Therefore, the Constitutional Court decided that certain steps also needed to be taken in the legal sphere.
Mr. Miklashevich noted that the existence of laws in two languages would help if necessary conduct the proceedings in the Belarusian language, too.
Human rights activists welcomed the radical change in the position of the Constitutional Court on measures for the further development of the Belarusian language, including in the creation of legislation in the national language. Over the past few years, a number civil society and human rights organizations have repeatedly petitioned the highest state institutions on this issue, including the Constitutional Court, the House of Representatives of the National Assembly and the President’s Administration.
The lack of lawmaking in the Belarusian language was raised before the Constitutional Court by deputy chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich. He asked the Court to find Article 7 of the Law “On Languages in the Republic of Belarus” non-compliant with Article 17 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and offered the House of Representatives of the National Assembly to make changes to this article, in order to legislate an obligation of state authorities to issue all regulations (including the texts of bills) in the two state languages – Belarusian and Russian. The answer was concise: the House of Representatives will not write to the Constitutional Court regarding the discrimination of the Belarusian language.
This appeal was also sent to the Supreme Court of Belarus, the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers, Presidential Administration. However, none of these agencies saw any signs of discrimination and violations of Belarusian-language population.
Finally, the Constitutional Court of Belarus listened to the voice of human rights activists and the public on the issue of lawmaking in the Belarusian language.