Belarus UPR report of Belarus is heard at UN Human Rights Council
May 4, Belarus presented its national report to the UN Human Rights Council within the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This is already the second cycle of the UPR for Belarus. The country reported about the implementation of the recommendations that had been received in the first round of the UPR in 2010.
The position of Belarus was announced by the delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Valiantsin Rybakou and including officials from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labor and Social Security, Ministry of Information, Ministry of Interior, Department of Corrections and the Supreme Court. They noted the importance of the UPR procedures for Belarus, spoke about the measures taken to implement the recommendations that had been made in 2010, and answered questions from other states.
Among the topics that were raised during the interactive dialogue of the Belarusian delegation with other states, the greatest attention was paid to the issue of the death penalty, Belarus' need to sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Statute of the International Criminal Court and other international instruments on human rights, the problems of political prisoners, the prevention of torture, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of speech. A number of countries (Mexico, Canada) expressed concern about the threat of deterioration in the human rights situation during the upcoming presidential elections in 2015.
A large number of countries urged Belarus to cooperate with the United Nations human rights institutions, including by inviting special rapporteurs (especially the special rapporteur on human rights in Belarus), to implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on Human Rights and to present timely reports to the bodies of the United Nations (Ghana, Peru, Romania, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Norway, Lithuania, Belgium and others).
The issue of freedom of association has been raised by a number of countries, too. Rcommendations to abolish the criminalization of activities of unregistered organizations (Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code) were made by the United States, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Lithuania, Poland. Also, proposals for improving the legal environment for non-profit organizations were voiced byCanada, Estonia, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Croatia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and others.
A number of countries urged the Belarusian authorities to immediately release political prisoners (Luxembourg, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Canada, Australia) and to discontinue the practice of persecution and pressure on independent journalists and human rights defenders.
Immediately after the session of questions and answers, a side-event took place at the Human Rights Council, at which representatives of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", the Center for Legal Transformation and the Assembly of Democratic NGOs gave their assessment to the answers, given by the official Minsk. Belarusian non-governmental organizations stressed the importance of preserving the institution of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and expressed the wish that the recommendations to Belarus in the second round of the UPR should be very concrete, which would demand from the Belarusian government to take real steps, such as amednment of laws and practice. They also voiced their proposals concerning the content of the possible recommendations. The speakers reminded about the existence of political prisoners in the country and drew attention to the trial against Mikalai Statkevich, who was standing trial on the day of the event.
The side event, organized by the International Civil alliance CIVICUS with the participation of the International Federation for Human Rights, Human Rights House Network and Human Rights Watch was visited by more than 20 state delegations (including the delegations of the European Union, Finland, Great Britain, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Belgium Romania, Hungary, Lithuania, etc.).