UN Committee against Torture insists on investigation of tortures in Belarus

2011 2011-12-06T17:41:40+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The UN Committee against Torture has released recommendations for the Belarusian authorities after discussing the situation in Belarus in Geneva on 11 and 14 November. Two reports, an official governmental one on Belarus’s fulfilling the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the other one prepared by human rights activists. Following the two hearings, the Committee drew up recommendations for the authorities of Belarus, BelaPAN news agency reports.

The Committee recommends giving all prisoners access to fundamental legal safeguards from the very outset of their detention, including the rights to prompt access to a lawyer and a medical examination by an independent doctor, to contact family members.

The committee also recommends ensuring prompt registration of all persons deprived of their liberty following apprehension and access to the register by lawyers and relatives of those detained.

Being the participant of the UN Convention against Torture, the state is obliged to monitor compliance with legislation that requires all law enforcement officers on duty, including riot police (the OMON), the KGB personnel, to wear identification, the recommendations say.

The Committee recommends the authorities to ensure investigation into the cases of disappeared persons, namely Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar, Anatol Krasouski and Zmitser Zavadski.

The state should establish an independent and effective mechanism to facilitate submission of complaints by victims of torture and ill treatment to public authorities, including obtaining medical evidence in support of their allegations, and to ensure in practice that complainants are protected against any ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of their complaint or any evidence given.

The Committee recommends the authorities to consider establishing an independent and impartial governmental and non-governmental national human rights commission with effective powers to, inter alia, promote human rights and investigate all complaints of human rights violations.

The recommendations advise to provide the outcome of the investigation into the allegations raised by the Committee, including cases of Ales Mikhalevich, Andrei Sannikau, Aliaksandr Atroschankau, Uladzimir Niakliayeu,Natallia Radzina and Maya Abromchyk, and the broader allegations of indiscriminate and disproportionate force used by riot police against approximately 300 people in Independence Square on 19 December 2010.

The Committee calls on Belarus to guarantee the full independence of the judiciary in line with the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and ensure that judicial selection, appointment, compensation and tenure are made according to objective criteria concerning qualification, integrity, ability and efficiency.

Besides, the Committee proposes to investigate into the cases of lawyers who represented individuals detained in connection with the events of 19 December 2010 and were subsequently disbarred.

The Committee calls to take measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders and journalists from intimidation or violence as a result of their activities as well as the prompt, impartial and thorough investigation, prosecution and punishment of such acts.

The authorities are recommended to inform the Committee about the outcome of investigations of alleged threats against and harassment by the authorities of human rights defenders and journalists, including cases of two journalists, Irina Khalip and Andrzej Poczobut; the Chair of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Aleh Hulak; and the President of Viasna, Ales Bialiatski.

Belarus should take all necessary measures to improve the conditions of detention of persons on death row, and to ensure they are afforded all the protections provided by the Convention.

Furthermore, the state should remedy the secrecy and arbitrariness surrounding executions so that family members do not have added uncertainty and suffering.

The Committee also recommends the Belarusian authorities to consider the abolition of the death penalty.