Statement by Yuri Dzhibladze at the 23nd session of the UN Human Rights Council

Statement by Yuri Dzhibladze at the 23nd session of the UN Human Rights Council during interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Belarus

On behalf of Civicus, World Alliance for Citizen Participation,
and the Committee of International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus

4 June, 2013

Thank you, Mr. President,

Civicus and the Committee of International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus, a coalition of more than 50 NGOs from different countries, welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur. We believe it clearly and precisely reflects the situation on the ground and the main concerns of the international community. The report has nothing to do with political pressure but focuses exclusively on the UN human rights obligations.

As a result of our monitoring on the ground, we see that in the last year the human rights situation in Belarus has not only remained bad; it has deteriorated further, first and foremost in the areas of freedoms of association, expression, and assembly as well as concerning the use of torture and ill-treatment in custody, impunity of perpetrators of human rights abuses, and violations of fair trial safeguards.

We support reference in the report to specific areas where comprehensive review of relevant legislation, policies, strategies and practices should be done. Relevant UN documents containing recommendations on the human rights situation in Belarus should serve as a framework for legislative and policy change.

We believe that a comprehensive reform of the justice sector should be a key demand in order to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and ensure fair trial guarantees. Without independent courts civic activists, journalists, defense lawyers and the opposition members will continue to be harassed and imprisoned on fabricated charges.

We strongly believe that extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur is absolutely necessary not only because the situation in Belarus requires continued attention of the Council but because the second term could be devoted to the development of a more focused analysis of existing legislative framework in Belarus, lack of its compliance with the UN human rights standards and obligations, and elaboration of concrete recommendations on how legislation and practices should be changed to bring them in compliance with UN obligations. This “road map” of a sort would serve as a basis for dialogue with the Belarusian government and society and, equally important, would help to decide in the next year and possibly further on, whether progress in Belarus has been sufficient enough to terminate the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, or more work needs to be done and therefore the mandate needs to be extended further.

This would put the discussion on the situation in Belarus firmly in the legal framework and allow the Council to avoid fruitless debate about politization of its country-specific work.

News of Belarus

Tough sentences announced to Brest antifascists

A verdict was delivered today in the case of Brest antifascists acused of participation in a group fight with neonazis which happened on May 8, 2013.

Antifascists were tried under the art. 339.3 (malicious group hooliganism) and 147.2 (malicious bodily harm). The case was qualified as malicious due to the fact of pepper spray usage in the fight.

Dzmitry Stsyashenka got 5 years of penal colony with reinforced regime (339.3) and 500 euro of damages to be paid to the injured nazis.

Exclusive: European Union moves to suspend sanctions on Belarus

The European Union is likely to lift some sanctions on Belarus, including its travel ban on President Alexander Lukashenko, after he freed a group of political prisoners last month, diplomatic sources say.

An arms embargo against the former Soviet republic would remain. But in an overture to the man the West calls Europe's "last dictator", diplomats are looking at suspending visa bans and asset freezes on most of around 200 people under sanctions for rights abuses, some since disputed elections in 2004.