Human rights defenders prepared a report to the UN on the state's implementation of the recommendations of the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review
Human rights defenders have prepared an interim report on Belarus' implementation of the recommendations of the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The report was prepared by a coalition of Belarusian human rights organizations: the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the human rights center Viasna, Lawtrend, the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Legal initiative, Human Constanta, together with the Belarusian Association of Human Rights Lawyers and an environmental organization Ecohouse with the general coordination of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, reports belhelcom.org.
What is UPR and why is it needed
Every four and a half years, each UN member country undergoes the Universal Periodic Review procedure, a kind of "exam" where it reports on the observance of human rights. Other countries provide recommendations to the accountable country on possible improvements.
Then, the country undergoing the inspection procedure voluntarily determines which of the recommendations to accept. It is assumed that the country accepts and implements the recommendations voluntarily, as this will make people's lives better. And since the review is periodic (every four and a half years), it is possible to see how the country has implemented the recommendations.
Belarus underwent the UPR procedure in 2010, 2015 and 2020. The inspection is based on three key documents.
The first of them is information prepared by the relevant state. The National Report includes information on the legal and institutional framework for the protection of human rights, information on the implementation of international human rights obligations, national legislation and voluntary commitments, national priorities and initiatives to overcome problems and improve the human rights situation; state expectations in terms of capacity-building and requests for technical assistance.
The second one is a compilation prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with information contained in the reports of treaty bodies, special procedures, and other relevant UN bodies.
The third one is a summary of additional "credible and reliable information" provided by other stakeholders, such as NGOs, national human rights organizations, trade unions, and religious groups. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is also compiling this summary.
The three reports on which the review of Belarus in 2020 was based can be found here.
Belarus and the UPR: 2020-2025
As part of the 2020 review, Belarus received 266 recommendations. The cycle will last until 2025, when the state will provide information on how it has implemented these recommendations.
The recommendations received by Belarus concern the ratification of international treaties, legal and institutional reforms, civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, the rights of women and other vulnerable groups.
Interim report of human rights defenders
In order to record the stage at which the state is currently implementing the recommendations, the Belarusian human rights coalition, with the participation of other civil society organizations, has prepared an interim report.
Of the 266 recommendations received by Belarus in the third cycle, 14 were not evaluated due to the lack of sufficient information. The analysis showed that of the 252 evaluated recommendations, only two are being implemented by the state, one is under implementation, 26 are partially implemented, and 223 are not being implemented.
In addition, of the nine recommendations that Belarus agreed to implement in this UPR cycle, according to human rights defenders, only five recommendations are being implemented, but not fully (one recommendation is not being implemented and three were not evaluated). Of the 124 recommendations that Belarus has adopted as already implemented in the state, two are actually being implemented, one is under implementation and 20 are partially implemented (90 are not being implemented and 11 have not been evaluated). Of the 18 recommendations partially adopted by Belarus, one is partially implemented and 17 are not implemented. Four recommendations adopted by Belarus as being under implementation are not being implemented.
In the report, we did not just assess the implementation of the recommendations, but also gave a comment explaining the specific assessment.
For example, assessing as unfulfilled the recommendation from Greece "to adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation defining all forms of discrimination in accordance with international standards and guaranteeing women equal access to work", which Belarus adopted as already implemented, we pointed out the lack of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation containing relevant concepts, including definitions of direct and indirect discrimination, effective mechanisms for dealing with complaints of discrimination, and specific sanctions against discrimination. We also noted that women continue to systematically face discrimination in the labor market, in particular, there still are the list of prohibited professions for women, the gender pay gap, and the "glass ceiling".
Many recommendations regarding legislation and its application in regard to freedom of expression, including freedom of the media, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and other civil and political rights, have been assessed by human rights defenders as those that are not respected, citing mass repression of "dissenters".