Miklós Haraszti: “I wish I could report to you about progress…” Video
On June 25, Miklós Haraszti, the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus, presented his sixth (and last) report on the situation of human rights in Belarus at the 38th session of UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The Special Rapporteur noted that since the establishment of the mandate in 2012, the country “continued to be governed by a repressive legal framework, aggravated by recurring waves of massive violent repression.”
“I wish I could report to you about progress made during all these years or at least in this concluding account, but as shown in the report during these six years the authorities have not brought any substantive tangible change to the overall human rights situation in the country. Neither reforms not small steps have been initiated by the authorities for the improvement of the situation,” Miklós Haraszti said.
The UN expert once again stressed that the deteriorating human rights record has shaped the lives of several generations.
“A 22-year old in Belarus has never experienced free elections, is afraid to express views critical of Government policies, does not have free access to the media, and finds it normal to undertake forced labor at the weekend,” he said.
In response, Yury Ambrazevich, head of the Permanent Mission of Belarus to the UN in Geneva, said that the government did not recognize the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and regretted that the Council had once again been “forced to consider a politically motivated document.”
The ensuing discussion (watch the video below) involved delegations of EU countries, Australia, Great Britain, a representative of the Council of Europe and activists of several key international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, FIDH, Human Rights House Foundation and Human Rights Watch.
All of them supported Miklós Haraszti’s conclusions and said that the country mandate should be renewed.
The European Union delegation, in particular, said it remained concerned about violations of freedoms of the media, peaceful assembly and association, and the criminalization of civil society groups.
Representatives of France, Finland, Belgium, Australia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom urged Belarus — the only country in Europe to still apply the death penalty — to implement a moratorium.
“The death penalty and its abolition remained the central element of the dialogue with Belarus; it was encouraging to see a greater participation of civil society organizations and academia in the discussions on the abolition, but a serious concern remained about the ongoing executions and new sentences,” a CoE envoy said.
The human rights groups said that all legislative and systematic restrictions on freedom of expression and association remained in place and violations of civil and political rights were coupled by violations of economic and social rights.
“Of particular concern was the continued persecution of independent journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition activists, including through threats of criminal prosecution,” FIDH representative said.
Human Rights House Foundation stressed the poor working conditions for the country’s civil society.
“Belarus’ civil society relied on the mandate to give international expression to the human rights violations they faced, and to ensure that Belarus was held to account internationally,” a representative of HRHF said.
Amnesty International noted that the continued use of the death penalty, violations of the right to a fair trial, laws restricting the independent media, and reprisals against peaceful critics of the authorities, all called for the renewal of the mandate.
Miklós Haraszti (Hungary) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012. The mandate expires on October 31.