Alternative report presented to UN Committee against Torture
On April 26, a delegation of human rights activists from Belarus presented their alternative report within the 63rd session of the United Nations Committee against Torture.
Pavel Sapelka of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", head of the NGO "Legal Initiative" Viktoryia Fiodarava, leader of the Belarusian Documentation Center Raisa Mikhailouskaya and a member of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Pavel Levinau told about the priority changes, which would lead to an improvement in the situation of torture and other ill-treatment.
The key issue of concern include:
- absence of criminal responsibility for all forms of torture under the Convention against Torture;
- absence of a national mechanism for the prevention of torture: Belarus still has not acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, failing to make a declaration on Articles 21 and 22;
- provisions of the Convention are only viewed by officials as theory and are never applied by the courts;
- government evades adopting urgent and effective measures to combat violence in prisons;
- allegations of torture and ill-treatment are not investigated promptly, impartially and effectively, and the victim has no access to the investigation;
- dependence of the authorities conducting the investigation of torture and judges on the executive branch and the President;
- pressure on the legal profession and its dependence on the Ministry of Justice;
- lack of access of human rights defenders to the information on the conditions in places of unfreedom and regular bans on their membership on public monitoring commissions;
- absence of specialized migration centers; foreigners are kept for a long time in detention centers, where conditions can be viewed as degrading;
- Belarus practices forced deportation and extradition to states where persons face torture and death penalty; human rights defenders documented cases of extradition without due process;
- Belarus still executes people, violating the rules of procedure of the UN Human Rights Committee: death convicts are executed before the Committee hears their complaints.
- Raisa Mikhailouskaya also presented a report on enforced disappearances of politicians, which have not yet been investigated properly.
After that, the human rights activists responded to the Committee's questions.
The presentation was followed by a round-table discussion with representatives of the EU and Mexico. The day before, the human rights activists met separately with members of the UN Human Rights Council Ezequiel Petersen (Brazil), Ana Doborjginidze (Georgia), Curtis Peters (Canada), Clarisse Gerardin (France), Jessica Carl of the United States of America and Gerard Ondongo from Congo. They talked about the human rights situation Belarus, expressed their views on the appropriateness of renewing the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus and discussed other issues related to human rights.
Today, the official delegation of Belarus is expected to present the results of four years of work to combat torture and other cruel, inhuman treatment in the country. A live broadcast of the event is available on the UN website.
On Monday, April 30, the official representatives of Belarus will answer questions from the UN Committee against Torture.