Statement No.12 “On restrictions on freedom of movement in relation to citizens of the Republic of Belarus”
Acting on behalf of the Committee on International Control over the Situation with Human Rights in Belarus (CIC), which brings together representatives of national and international civil society organizations and networks from the OSCE countries;
monitoring the overall situation with the observance of fundamental human rights in the Republic of Belarus;
emphasizing that human rights are subject of direct and legitimate concern of international civil society;
urging the Belarusian authorities to follow the undertaken international obligations on human rights, in particular, on the freedom of movement, including the right of everyone to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country,
the International Observation Mission:
1. Expresses its profound concern about a number of events, indicating the resumption in March 2012 by the authorities of the Republic of Belarus of the actions aimed at restriction of travel outside Belarus for citizens of Belarus who are civil society activists, human rights defenders, journalists and representatives of political parties, in particular:
- media statement about the creation of the list of persons whose exit from the territory of Belarus is restricted, made on March 1st, 2012 by the Head of the Department for supervision over the law enforcement and legality of legislative acts of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Belarus Pavel Rodionov (a list of more than 100 persons has been referred to);
- prohibition of exit from the country which was imposed between March 7 – 11, 2012 on the Belarusian opposition politicians trying to travel outside Belarus, namely Leader of the United Civil Party Anatoly Lebed’ko, Chairman of the "Fair World" party Sergey Kalyakin, and activist of the movement "For Freedom" Viktor Kornienko;
- prohibition of exit from the country which on March 11, 2012 was imposed on Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valentin Stefanovich by the employees of the State Border Committee without explanations;
- refusal by the Department of visas and registration of the October district of Vitebsk on March 12, 2012 to provide the leader of the civil campaign "Our House" Olga Karach with the certificate proving that she can freely leave the territory of the Republic of Belarus, referring to a "ban to issue such certificates received a week ago”;
- issuance by the Department of Citizenship and Migration of the Frunze district of Minsk on March 13, 2012 of the certificate to the Chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC) Oleg Gulak stating that from March 5, 2012, his name is included in the database of the citizens of the Republic of Belarus, whose right to leave Belarus is temporarily restricted, due to a certain civil plea against him (despite the fact that the Ministry of Justice does not possess information about the lawsuit against him);
- prohibition of exit from the country which on March 14, 2012 was imposed on the editor-in-chief of the "Nasha Niva" newspaper Andrei Dyn’ko by the employees of the State Border Committee without explanations;
- prohibition of exit from the country which on March 15 , 2012 was imposed on Chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Zhanna Litvina and journalist of the "Belsat" TV channel Mikhail Yanchuk by the employees of the State Border Committee with putting stamps "exit temporarily restricted" in their passports;
- issuance by the Department of Citizenship and Migration of the Moscow district of Minsk on March 15, 2012 of the certificate to Garry Pogonyajlo, Chairman of the legal commission of the BHC, stating that from March 5, 2012, his name is included in the database of the citizens of the Republic of Belarus, whose right to leave Belarus is temporarily restricted, due to him being a debtor in a bankruptcy case or an interested person in respect of the debtor (while the Ministry of Justice does not possess information on such a bankruptcy case).
2. Recalls that in accordance with the international obligations undertaken by Belarus within the framework of the UN and the OSCE, the right of everyone to leave his own country and return to it "shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others" (Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966) and that "restrictions on this right will have the character of very rare exceptions, will be considered necessary only if they respond to a specific public need, pursue a legitimate aim and are proportionate to that aim, and will not be abused or applied in an arbitrary manner" (Article 9.5 of the OSCE Copenhagen Document, 1990).
3. Considers the introduction of the above-mentioned restrictions on freedom of movement for civil society activists, human rights defenders and opposition members as arbitrary, unreasonable and not appropriate, contradicting not only international law but also national legislation, due to the fact that in all these cases citizens were not adequately explained the reasons for the ban on exit and in most cases the procedure did not comply with the requirement of preliminary informing of the persons about the decisions taken about the travel ban in relation to them, which is provided for by the Law of the Republic of Belarus No.49-3 "On the procedure of exit from the Republic of Belarus and entry to the Republic of Belarus of citizens of the Republic of Belarus".
4. While supporting the recent initiatives to expand and further strengthen international standards of freedom of movement across state borders, in particular, the OSCE Ministerial Council’s draft decision on freedom of movement, proposed in 2011 by Belarus and Russia, notes that such an extension is not possible without respect for the already existing minimum standards in this field by all the OSCE participating states;
5. Holds an opinion that under current conditions, such conduct of the Belarusian authorities will lead to even greater international self-isolation of the country and the actual impossibility of dialogue with the international community on any of the pressing issues of concern, especially regarding human rights and the rule of law.
The International Observation Mission requires from the authorities of the Republic of Belarus to:
- immediately clarify the current situation with the "travel ban lists", including notification of all the citizens whose exit from Belarus is temporarily restricted, checking of the each case of restriction and excluding all citizens, on whom such restriction was imposed illegally or erroneously, from the lists, as well as providing an opportunity to appeal in each case of restriction of the freedom of movement;
- bring the situation back to the legal domain and to ensure that in the future the right to freedom of movement, in particular, the freedom to leave the country and return back to it is guaranteed for all citizens, including civil society activists, human rights defenders, journalists and opposition politicians,
as well as calls for:
- the OSCE participating states and intergovernmental organizations to pay particular attention to the current situation in Belarus namely failure to comply with international norms and standards in the field of human dimension and undertake efficient and effective measures to eliminate as soon as possible human rights violations in Belarus;
- international and national civil society organizations in the OSCE region to strengthen as much as possible their presence in Belarus, in order to assist in the protection of human rights and the rule of law in the country and express support to and solidarity with the Belarusian civil society.
March 15th, 2012