On June 4, 2013 the UN Human Rights Council held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus.
Miklos Haraszti, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, said that he had reviewed a broad range of human rights concerns despite not having access to the country and to State officials.
“The few policy developments which had taken place did not appear to have had a direct impact on the improvement of the human rights situation, and human rights remained purposefully restricted by a governance system which was devoid of any checks and balances. Violations continued to be systematically carried out through different measures. Presidential decrees, in particular, had created a systemic conjunction between the arbitrary denial of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the punitive consequences for those who engaged in unauthorized civic activities. Journalists faced intimidation and punishment when attempting to report on unregistered activities.
The lack of rule of law in Belarus had a detrimental effect on the administration of justice, and the general population was affected by the lack of independence of the judiciary. Furthermore, Belarus was the only country in Europe which still used the death penalty, while also violating the right to the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. The issue of imprisoned human rights activists and leading political opponents needed to be addressed. A sustainable improvement of the situation would necessitate wider measures guided by the international obligations of Belarus towards the advancement of human rights, which needed to be fully respected if true stability and economic prosperity were to prevail in the country,” the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights says.
It is interesting that Minsk did not even issue a visa to the Special Rapporteur who was delegated to Belarus to monitor the human rights situation, and Belarus’ representative made an attempt to give reasons to the fact.
Mikhail Khvastou, Belarus’ representative to the UN, reiterated that Belarus saw the mandate of the Special Rapporteur as a political instrument of the European Union. According to him, the European Union saw Belarus as an object of its own foreign policy with which it tried to force its own way of life on Belarus as if it were better than any other; Belarus, however, followed its own development model.
Belarus did not need a Special Rapporteur on human rights to speak for it and rejected the characterization of the Special Rapporteur of the human rights situation in Belarus and his biased report, the Belarusian representative stressed.
This statement was the start of the dispute over the political situation in Belarus. Minsk was supported by the countries which often disregard human rights themselves (Syria, Iran, Palestine, Cuba, Venezuela, China, North Korea and some post-Soviet states).
Russia said that the report did not result from cooperation and dialogue with Belarus but was another compilation of unverified information from secondary sources. The situation of human rights in Belarus did not require the Council’s special attention and monitoring from the Council.
United States was gravely concerned with the human rights situation in Belarus and the lack of progress made on many recommendations of the High Commissioner. What advice did the Special Rapporteur have for increasing the capacity of Belarus to achieve his recommendation on promptly investigating allegations of violent incidents occurring due to actual or perceived sexual orientation?
Miklos Haraszti, in response to criticism received from the group of like-minded countries that his report on Belarus was biased, said that his report included two whole chapters containing all the positive elements relating to the human rights situation in Belarus.