Ales Bialiatski: human rights are universal
On March 5, after speaking at the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva Ales Bialiatski further commented to Human Rights Center "Viasna" about the topics he touched in his three-minute report.
"I spoke on behalf of all defenders of peace and therefore outlined the most important problems. I made several accents in my report.
First, I pointed at the usefulness of the so-called country mandates, i.e. when special rapporteurs are appointed for individual countries, like Miklos Haraszti has been appointed a rapporteur on Belarus. This issue is a subject of harsh disputes which have continued for several years by now. The countries where human rights are violated on a regular basis strongly oppose the use of this tool, while democratic countries and human rights activists advocate it. To my mind, this presents a great opportunity for international assessment and monitoring of human rights situation in individual countries. For example, the special rapporteur on Belarus is actually watching what is happening in the country during the year, and this becomes a certain limiter for the level of repression.
The official representative of Belarus in his speech covertly opposed the institute of special rapporteurs on individual countries, talking of allegedly subjective approach to certain issues. In fact, this statement was pointed at the special rapporteur on Belarus. This issue clearly disturbs the authorities, which means that this position really works. That's why I stated that the position of such rapporteurs at the UN needs to be preserved and promoted.
Secondly, I dedicated a large part of my speech to harassment faced by human rights defenders around the world. Often such persecution hasa pseudo-legal nature, as far as the authorities use the laws which restrict and criminalize human rights activities and limit their financing. For instance, in Russia many human rights organizations are now labeled as “foreign agents”, which gives them a very negative connotation. All this is done to discredit human rights defenders. It is obvious that the authorities in these countries fight with them by all possible means and methods, including imprisonment. I also said a couple of words about my detention and imprisonment and their illegality, which was recognized by the Human Rights Committee, as well as violation of my right to freedom of association. It is quite hard for the authorities to hide such manipulations when international human rights mechanisms intervene.
Thirdly, very often the authorities of those countries where human rights are violated justify these violations by references to traditions, religion, some national values, etc. This is absolutely wrong, since human rights are universal. All in all, it became the basis for the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the adoption of other human rights international instruments. In particular, at present the universal nature of human rights is actively disputed. Much is said about a special Russian way with no place for human rights. I called the United Nations Human Rights Council to protect civil society in the countries where it is persecuted, and to use all the means and opportunities for it.
All these topics are very voluminous, though I have to talk about them quite succinctly. But it was very important to voice it all.”