Amnesty International about Belarus: Serious human rights concerns persist

Amnesty International has prepared a briefing for the Universal Periodic Review of Belarus (UPR). The 36th session of the UPR working group will take place in May, 2020.

In it, Amnesty International evaluates the implementation of recommendations made to Belarus in its previous UPR. The organisation also presents a summary of its vision of the human rights situation on the ground in Belarus. It specifically reiterates its longstanding concern about the continued use of the death penalty and calls for an immediate moratorium and an end to inhumane treatment of families of the convicted and executed persons.

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In the document, the human right defenders call on the government of Belarus to establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty and ‘lift all secrecy surrounding the use of the death penalty’ by informing the families of those previously executed about the location of their graves and the date of the execution.

They also highlight other long-standing concerns about Belarus’s consistent failure to abide by its obligations under international human rights law, including with regards to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, juvenile justice and fair trials, and discrimination, amongst other human rights.

“Changes to the Law on Mass Media entered into force in December 2018, considerably tightening state control over online media. Both registered and unregistered online media outlets are now obliged to record the names of people who submit comments, such as those under articles or in online forums (thus infringing on people’s right to anonymity), and to disclose the relevant information to the authorities on request. The owners of registered online media outlets are now legally responsible for the content of the comments. This has encouraged a culture of intense surveillance, further curtailing open debate and freedom of expression,” the document reads.

According to the human right watchdog, the Belarusian authorities continue to impose heavy fines on freelance journalists cooperating with international media outlets, with reference to Article 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (‘unlawful creation and dissemination of mass media production”).

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The right to freedom of peaceful assembly remains unduly and severely restricted in Belarus, in law and in practice, and those who attempt to exercise it face arrest by police (often using excessive force), heavy fines and arbitrary detention, and in some cases imprisonment, Amnesty International stress.

“Changes to the Law on Mass Events entered into force in January 2019 and established new procedures and fees for organisers who are obliged to pay for policing, medical and clear-up costs of any public event. This serves as a direct obstacle to organisations and individuals who cannot afford such expenditure for exercising their right to peaceful assembly,” the authors of the briefing say.

Homiel: Ban on protest against ban on peaceful assembly

Amnesty International has urged the Belarusian authorities to fully respect the universally recognised human rights and stop persecuting dissidents and critics of the government.

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