9 December 2005
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Adrian Severin, issued the following statement on 9 December in Geneva:
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Adrian Severin, expresses deep concern over the adoption by the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus of amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Republic of Belarus.
If approved, the introduction of amendments and changes to certain legislative acts of the Republic of Belarus on strengthening liability for the deeds, addressed against a person and public security, with its vague definitions, may open the way for arbitrary application of the law.
As such, these provisions have the potential to severely undermine the rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of expression of civil society organizations and individuals.
These amendments will be adopted if the Upper Chamber of Representatives of the Belarusian Parliament approves them on second reading on 16 December 2005. The introduction of a new article in the law, on Discrediting the Republic of Belarus, raises a particular concern, since it provides for criminal liability for submitting to international organizations “false information” on the situation in the country.
The Special Rapporteur believes that the proposed amendments could have a negative impact on the co-operation between the United Nations, including the Special Procedures of the Commission on Human Rights, and civil society; in particular, they could effectively undermine efforts to fulfill his mandate as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, established by Commission resolution 2004/14 and extended by resolution 2005/13.
The Special Rapporteur urges the Government of Belarus not to introduce the aforementioned amendments which, if adopted, would violate the Republic of Belarus’ international human rights obligations. The Special Rapporteur appeals to the Government of Belarus to put an end to the ongoing harassment and persecution of human rights defenders and to take all necessary steps to secure the right to freedom of opinion and expression.