UN Special Rapporteur reports absence of significant improvements in human rights situation in Belarus
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus Anaïs Marin delivered a report according to her mandate. The report describes the systemic and systematic human rights violations present in law and in practice. The findings of the Special Rapporteur indicate the absence of significant improvements and the necessity for the Government of Belarus to clearly demonstrate its commitment to addressing long-standing criticism by introducing concrete durable changes. Based on her conclusions, the Special Rapporteur addresses recommendations to the Government of Belarus and the international community.
As in previous years, the Government of Belarus has not recognized the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, thereby limiting her capacity to engage constructively.
Based on the information collected, the Special Rapporteur cannot attest to important improvements in terms of respect for human rights in Belarus. For example, the death penalty continues to be used and no progress has been recorded on the prevention of torture and ill-treatment although both areas have been the subject of many recommendations over the years.
Some welcome changes can be mentioned, such as the repeal of article 193.1 of the Criminal Code criminalizing the activities of non-registered organizations and the introduction of amendments to the law on mass events, establishing a notification procedure for certain assemblies. Those developments, however, only partly address the recommendations of human rights actors.
The reporting period was also marked by the entry into force of legislative amendments introducing further restrictions on online media, while formerly documented practices of arrests of human rights defenders and activists, the prevention of peaceful assemblies and interference with the work of journalists and civil society organizations continue to be regularly reported.
The information collected also shows a heavy-handed and punitive approach towards marginalized groups, such as people suffering from addiction or the unemployed. Individuals, including children, arrested for drug-related offenses are sentenced to disproportionately long terms in prison.
The Special Rapporteur also notes that several groups, such as Roma, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community or people living with HIV, continue to be discriminated against.
The Special Rapporteur encourages the Government to systematically involve civil society in policy-making, thereby promoting inclusiveness and increasing ownership.
Given the observations detailed in the present report, the Special Rapporteur is of the opinion that continued attention should be paid to the human rights situation in Belarus.