UN CERD to hear alternative reports on Belarus
On November 30, the 94th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is expected to consider the report of the Belarusian government on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Belarusian human rights defenders will present alternative reports to the Committee.
The States Parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), including Belarus that ratified the document in 1969, are obliged to report regularly, every two years, to the Committee on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention. After examining the country’s report, the Committee presents its views and recommendations to the State Party in the form of ‘concluding observations’. In subsequent years, the state must provide the Committee with information, among other things, on the measures taken to implement the observations.
Belarus last reported to the Committee in 2013, and now it is presenting its 20th-23rd periodic reports. The Committee appointed the consideration of the country’s reports for November 30 – December 1. By this time, the Committee’s independent experts will have met with representatives of the civil society, who will present their position on certain provisions of CERD.
It should be noted that this is the first time the human rights organizations of Belarus are engaged in this type of interaction with the Committee. A coalition for the preparation of the alternative report included the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Human Constanta, the FORB Initiative, and the Center of Equal Rights Expertise. They worked in cooperation with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House.
As noted in the alternative Report on Implementation of International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by the Republic of Belarus, its authors focused on those CERD provisions that are of immediate concern.
Outlining the national legislative framework for the prevention of discrimination, the human rights defenders stress the absence, in spite of the Committee's previous recommendations, of a legislative definition of racial discrimination in accordance with article 1 of CERD. Along with the absence of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and judicial practice in anti-discrimination cases, this makes it extremely difficult to implement the principles of equality and non-discrimination.
The report notes the existing practice of ethnic profiling of representatives of the Roma population by police officers, as well as the use by the authorities and the police of a language of hostility towards the Roma. The situation of refugees and stateless persons is also described. Attention is drawn to the fact that the national legislation retains criminal liability for organizing or participating in the activities of unregistered public associations and religious groups.
The authors outline a number of recommendations to the State that should be taken into account by the Committee in its concluding observations following the consideration of the official report.
In addition to the coalition report, another alternative report was sent to the Committee. The report is entitled From Penury to Prison: The Vicious Circle of Rights Violations Against the Roma of Belarus. It is based on materials collected by the employees of ADC “Memorial” during a field mission in Belarus in the fall of 2017. The text was prepared with the participation of the International Center for Civil Initiatives “Our Home”.
The work of the 94th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination will continue until December 8.