The human rights situation in Belarus saw little improvement in 2013, the World Report says.
World Report 2014 is Human Rights Watch’s 24th annual review of human rights practices around the globe. It summarizes key human rights issues in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide, drawing on events through November 2013. The World Report reflects extensive investigative work that Human Rights Watch staff undertook in 2013, in close partnership with human rights activists on the ground.
According to the World Report, our state suppresses virtually all forms of dissent and uses restrictive legislation and abusive practices to impede freedoms of association and assembly. Journalists are routinely harassed and subjected to arbitrary arrests and detention. Eight political prisoners remain jailed. Those who have been released continue to face restrictions, ranging from travel limitations to inclusion in law enforcement agencies’ ‘watch lists’. Civil society groups cannot function freely. Belarusian courts sentenced two more people to death during 2013.
Most media are state-controlled, and authorities harass the few independent journalists and outlets that remain. Aa the HRW estimated, in 2013, police arrested 25 journalists as they covered public protests. Courts sentenced at least four to short-term detention following convictions on misdemeanor charges. The authorities frequently prohibit reporting on public marches and open court hearings.
Belarus remains the only country in Europe and Central Asia that uses capital punishment, the reports stresses. In 2013, Belarusian courts sentenced three people to death. In October, the Supreme Court of Belarus annulled one of these, regarding a murder case, and ruled that the case be re-investigated.
Throughout the year, Belarus continued to demonstrate little interest in changing its international pariah status, the report states. In the lead up to the November 2013 Eastern Partnership Summit, the European Union demonstrated willingness to engage in dialogue with the Belarusian government by suspending a visa ban against the foreign minister, enabling him to travel to Brussels in July for the first high-level visit of a Belarusian official to EU headquarters since the 2010 government crackdown.
A European Parliament recommendation to EU institutions on EU policy towards Belarus, adopted in September, suggested to use the important opportunity presented by the November summit to gradually improve EU-Belarus relations. Progress on visa facilitation and readmission agreements, however, remained stalled over Belarus’ failure to release political prisoners and make steps towards improving the human rights situation, the authors say.
For the full report on Belarus click here.
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