UN Special Rapporteur: Release of political prisoners without rehabilitation is half step
Miklós Haraszti, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, welcomes the release of six Belarusian political prisoners.
Haraszti also warns that “a thorough reform of the judiciary and the easing of the restrictions on civic and political rights are necessary for the upcoming presidential elections to be free and fair”.
According to Haraszti, the release of the political prisoners is a positive gesture, but it “remains a half step without their full legal rehabilitation, the release of all people still detained for their civic stance, and the halting of the massive short-term detention of citizens who make use of their assembly and free speech rights”.
Haraszti called attention to the fact that none of the released political opponents could run for the next presidential election, scheduled for 11 October, Radio Svaboda reports.
“The release of a prisoner alone will not provide for free and fair elections,” the UN Rapporteur said, referring to Mikalai Statkevich, Lukashenka's rival in the 2010 presidential elections, who was released after 4.5 years in prison.
“The release of political opponents, which was as calculated and arbitrary as their incarceration, only highlights the urgently needed steps towards the strengthening of rule of law in Belarus,” Haraszti thinks.
Haraszti notes the restrictions imposed by the authorities on the released political prisoners:
“They have criminal records and some of them are placed under police surveillance with severe limitations of their movement, along with the obligation to report regularly with the police. It is crucial for the consolidation of human rights in the country that political prisoners not only be released, but also fully rehabilitated, their civil and political rights reinstated, allowing them to reintegrate and participate in the public life of Belarus.”
Almost all political prisoners who were released on August 22 were placed under police supervision.