The Human Rights Council should continue to take responsibility regarding the Human Rights situation in Belarus
The human rights situation in Belarus continues to be characterized by serious, widespread and systematic violations. In the words of the UN Special Rapporteur, Miklós Haraszti, violations in the country have a “systemic and systematic” character.
In 2013-2014, FIDH documented the fact that violations of economic and social rights, including workers’ rights, were as serious as violations of civil and political rights in the country. Concerns about forced labor in Belarus were largely echoed by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its recommendations to the country. At its 26th session (June 2014), the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country for one year.
Despite the release of Ales Bialiatski, President of Viasna and Vice-President of FIDH, after three years of arbitrary detention, the human rights situation in Belarus has not improved – to the contrary. A telling example of the systematic repression of independent and dissenting voices and of the stifling of civil society is the use of preventive arbitrary detention, as documented by FIDH and Viasna. Our last report shows that the authorities in Belarus systematically arrest activists, without legal grounds, prior to important public events to avoid any protest.
At the international level, the government of Belarus continues to ignore the recommendations of UN bodies and to refuse to cooperate with them. Belarus disregarded a decision by the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention finding that the detention of Ales Bialiatski was arbitrary, and was condemned by a second UN body, the Human Rights Committee (CCPR Committee), after it discontinued all cooperation with it. The October 2014 decision by the CCPR Committee is a landmark decision insofar as it analyzed the reasons invoked by the state concerned to refuse the registration of Viasna and recognized that they were in breach of the right to freedom of association protected by the Covenant, as they were neither legitimate nor necessary, nor were they in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. It further recognizes that Ales Bialiatski’s detention was the direct consequence of the violation of his right to freedom of association, that his rights to the presumption of innocence and to due process were violated, and requests Belarus to provide him with compensation as well as to take measures as to ensure non-repetition.
In a year in which Belarus will be reviewed in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) (on 4 May) and under discussion at 29th session of the Human Rights Council (in June), the Council’s attention should not be diverted by Belarus’s role in hosting negotiations on the Ukrainian conflict. Neither should the gravity of the human rights situation in other countries of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region (from Azerbaijan to Uzbekistan) serve as an excuse to release the pressure on the Belarusian government. The need for international monitoring of the situation in these countries in no way contradicts efforts of the international community in Belarus. In the run-up to this year’s presidential election – all the more since electoral campaigns and elections have repeatedly been characterized by increased repression in Belarus –, the Human Rights Council should keep the country high on its agenda.
At the 28th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC 28), FIDH will engage with diplomatic missions in the framework of the “High-Level Segment” and hold a briefing around Ales Bialiatski, on 6 March 2015. The main objective of the latter will be to build momentum and support for the HRC’s action on Belarus in June (HRC 29), as well as for its upcoming UPR.
The fact that, after three years of detention, during which his name resonated so many times at the Human Rights Council, Ales Bialiatski will be able to address the Council in a plenary session (on 5 March 2015), is emblematic of the effectiveness that the Council can have in building the necessary pressure on repressive regimes.