Mazyr rights activist calls on local authorities to take measures to ensure language rights
Human rights activist Uladzimir Tseliapun has sent a letter to the Chairman of the Mazyr district executive committee chairman Yauhen Adamenka and the Chairman of the District Council of Deputies Siarhei Hvozd. The activist encourages the officials to take all measures possible to ensure the real rights of citizens in speaking their native language.
The petition is dedicated to the International Mother Language Day (21 February). The human rights activist recalls that the Belarusian language, which has the status of the state language, is the mother language to the majority of the population of Belarus. Thus, according to the last census in 2009, about 84% of the country’s citizens are ethnic Belarusians. Of the total population, 53.2% said the Belarusian language is their mother language. However, in kindergartens, schools, colleges and universities, the state bodies, the army, law enforcement agencies, courts and administrative procedures and in the state media Belarusian language is almost absent.
Mazyr does not have a single kindergarten with the Belarusian language of education, Belarusian-language class, school, or high school. Even signs with street names have been recently replaced with Russian ones. Uladzimir Tseliapun has experience when his statements and testimony in court were translated into Russian. Representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office told the human rights activist that a response to his statement in Belarusian would be given in Russian.
“None of the officials of the executive committee, members of the District Council and the National Assembly was able to speak Belarusian. The local newspaper Zhytstsio Palessia, founded by the executive committee and the district council, has only its name in Belarusian. The content is fully published in Russian,” stresses the petitioner.
He believes that such approaches violate the principle of equality (Art. 22 of the Constitution), resulting in the preferential use of the Russian language at the expense of Belarusian, which can be considered discriminatory.
The human rights activist reminds the officials that command of the Belarusian language is one of the mandatory qualification requirements in the public service (paragraph 1.3 of Part 1 of Art. 26 of the Law “On State Service in the Republic of Belarus”).