Human rights activists meet with PACE Special Rapporteur Andrea Rigoni
On february 25, Andrea Rigoni, Special Rapporteur of the Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), continued his fact-finding visit to Belarus with a meeting with representatives of key human rights organizations: the Human Rights Center "Viasna", the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Belarusian Association of Journalists and the Center for Legal Transformation Lawtrend.
As reported ahead of the visit, Andrea Rigoni was expected to meet with various government officials and civil society representatives in the context of the preparation of his report on the situation in Belarus.
According to Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich, who participated in the meeting, the conversation dealt with the current state of civil society in Belarus, including the situation with the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus. It was stressed that the country’s leadership was not eager to change the situation. Recent statements by President Aliaksandr Lukashenka during a press conference on January 28 was a striking confirmation of the fact. “I am increasingly attracted by the fact that a person must be put against a wall for murder,” said President Lukashenka.
The PACE Rapporteur touched upon the issue of political prisoners in Belarus, as well as the situation of freedom of the media. Andrea Rigoni was informed about the recent actions of the Belarusian authorities aimed at blocking websites. The meeting participants stressed that no specific improvements had happened in this area in recent years.
Mr. Rigoni told the human rights activists that during his meeting with the Chairman of the Central Election Commission Lidziya Yarmoshyna they discussed the possibility of inviting a PACE observation mission to the 2015 presidential election.
A preliminary report on the results of the visit to Belarus will be presented on March 18 at a session of the Political Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. With regard to the presentation of his full report at the plenary session of the Assembly, Mr. Rigoni said that the exact dates had not yet been determined, it is likely to happen in the second half of 2015.