UN Rights Rapporteur Laments Lack Of Improvement In 'Kafkaesque' Belarus
Belarusians continue to live under severe restrictions on freedom of assembly and other rights after nearly a quarter-century under President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, UN special rapporteur Miklos Haraszti has told RFE/RL.
Haraszti, who is expected to present his latest report on human rights in Belarus in Geneva on June 25, decried what he said was a lack of progress on freedom of the media, speech, and assembly in the former Soviet republic.
Haraszti, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Belarus, said that Lukashenka's government had tightened restrictive measures in order "not to allow the genie out of the bottle."
The Belarusian authorities have developed a "very peculiar" way of regulating social activity, he said, describing legislation that "applies to all aspects of public life, including the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of expression and the media, and even the right to life."
"The legislation gives the government the right to decide freely whether to allow any public action or not," Haraszti said.
He said that Belarusians were in a "Kafkaesque" predicament: For almost any public event, they have to ask the authorities for permission that is "almost impossible to obtain."
If permission is not obtained, he said, an event or gathering is considered illegal and the authorities impose whatever punishment they wish on participants, including prison terms.
Haraszti also said that Belarus was the only country in Europe that did not have private media outlets broadcasting nationwide, and criticized recent amendments to media legislation that increase state control over the Internet.