Human rights paralysis continues in Belarus – UN Special Rapporteur

On June 21, United Nations Special Rapporteur Miklós Haraszti cautioned about ‘the lack of significant change in the entrenched oppressive laws and practices in Belarus’, and urged the international community not to lose sight of the human rights situation in the country, especially in view of the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

“Several generations have grown up in Belarus with no experience of what the words ‘pluralism’, ‘labour rights’, ‘free enterprise’, ‘free artistic creation’ or ‘free media’  mean in reality,” Mr. Haraszti said during the presentation of his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council. “Hence, the current level of international scrutiny of compliance with international human rights obligations has to remain.”

The human rights expert welcomed the absence of law enforcement violence during the presidential election of October 2015, as well as the release of political prisoners. “However,” he stressed, “since then, these ‘openings’ have not led to any systemic change in the ‘permission-based’ regime of public life that has been the main cause of the practically complete paralysis of civic freedoms in Belarus.”

“The essence of that 20-years-old regime is that any public activity remains subject to prior authorization through an arbitrary registration process,” Mr. Haraszti noted. “Media, associations, or gatherings are not only forbidden but criminalized if not preliminarily authorized by the government.”

“Regardless of the actual level of law enforcement violence, the systematic punishment of citizens’ efforts to use their rights has relentlessly continued since the last Presidential election,” he stated.

The Special Rapporteur recalled that, in Belarus, laws are made by presidential decrees, Parliament has had no opposition for the last 20 years, and the judicial apparatus is governed by the President who singlehandedly appoints and removes all judges and prosecutors.

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In view of the upcoming parliamentary elections of September 2016, he expressed worries that only two out of 30 of the recommendations made by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) after the presidential election of October 2015 would be taken on board.

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The Special Rapporteur, whose report also assesses Belarus’s level of compliance with recommendations of the UN human rights mechanisms, sees no significant co-operation since his mandate was established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012.

“I reiterate my call towards the authorities to engage with the mandate, even in an incremental way,” Mr. Haraszti said. “I am ready to assist the Government towards a dialogue with the rights defenders inside the country who do their work under often forbidding difficulties.”

The UN Human Rights Council restored the position of the Council’s rapporteur on Belarus in July 2012, much to the displeasure of the Belarusian government. Miklos Haraszti, a Hungarian politician, was appointed Special Rapporteur on Belarus. Minsk does not recognize the mandate of the special rapporteur on Belarus and denies him an entry visa., following

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