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UN rights expert deplores human rights violations in Belarus, urges co-operation

GENEVA (14 June 2013) - Miklos Haraszti, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, has urged the Belarus government to engage with his mandate to improve the country’s human rights situation.

“Human rights are systematically restricted in Belarus through different measures: decrees, policies and practice,” said Mr. Haraszti, speaking after his mandate was renewed by the Human Rights Council for another year. “The fulfilment of human rights remains purposefully blocked by a governance system that is devoid of any checks and balances.”

Mr. Haraszti recalled that during his first mandate he had not been able to visit Belarus and talk to officials, having received no response to his requests from the government. The UN expert said he had gathered facts by talking to a great variety of Belarusian sources during several trips to neighbouring countries.

Mr. Haraszti said particular concerns included: enforced disappearances; arbitrary arrests and detentions; harassment of imprisoned political opponents and human rights defenders; the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and the death penalty, Belarus being the only country in Europe that executes people.

“The rule of law in Belarus is critically undermined by non-transparent court proceedings that can end up in executions without any meaningful legal guarantee,” the UN expert said.

It was equally intimidating that all cases of enforced disappearances of public opponents of the government remained unaccounted for, with no legal consequences, he added.

“This is the situation where the Council, through this mandate, needs to support the promotion and protection of human rights in Belarus.”

An urgent issue to be addressed was the unconditional release of human rights activists and political opponents imprisoned on spurious criminal charges, the UN expert said.

Mr. Haraszti also detailed wider measures to lead to a sustainable improvement of the situation. These included: guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and bar associations; establishing judicial procedural safeguards; abolishing the system of arbitrary arrest and detention; replacing the permission-based regime with a notification-based registration for assemblies, associations, and the media; decriminalising the work of independent NGOs; and creating an independent National Human Rights Institution.

“Rule of law is not identical with ruling by law,” Mr. Haraszti said. “True stability and economic prosperity for a country rest on full respect for human rights. In my life, I have seen many times that if there is political will in these areas, progress can be mutually rewarding for government and society.”

“I stand ready to assist both, through practical and constructive co-operation, in their endeavours to advance human rights in Belarus.”

ENDS

Miklos Haraszti (Hungary) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus on 1 November 2012 and his mandate was renewed on 13 June ​2013 for one year.

OHCHR Country page: Belarus:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/BYIndex.aspx

Special Rapporteur’s report on Belarus:
www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session23/A-HRC-23-52_en.pdf
Human Rights Council’s resolution: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/HRC/d_res_dec/A_HRC_23_L18.doc

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