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Belarus: unchanged oppression of human rights necessitates continuation of UN mandate, Special Rapporteur says

GENEVA (26 June 2018) – The departing UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, is urging the Human Rights Council to continue the mandate because the country’s leadership shows no sign of stopping its oppression of the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

“Neither reforms nor small steps have been initiated by the authorities for the improvement of the situation. Belarus has refused to comply with the recommendations of the Council, just as it has refused to cooperate with the mandate of the Rapporteur,” Mr. Haraszti said in his report to the Council.

“Belarus continues to be governed by a deeply entrenched repressive legal framework, which is aggravated by cyclically recurring waves of massive violent repression against those who attempt claim their human rights,” he added.

“Peaceful demonstrators, non-governmental organizations, political opponents, human rights activists and independent media workers continue to be the targets of a systematic harassment. Just as in 2017, this March 100 people were arbitrarily arrested and detained during the 100th anniversary celebrations of the independence of Belarus,” said Mr. Haraszti.

The UN expert noted with concern the amendments to the media laws passed on 14 June by the National Assembly. “The changes would remove the remnants of free expression online, after decades of absence of that freedom in the print and broadcast media,” he warned.

“The continuing application of the permission-based regime for public demonstrations, civil associations, political parties, journalists and media outlets has paralyzed society.

“The impact of the powers amassed by the President who has been in office for a quarter century, the lack of independence of the judiciary, and rigged elections, should make the international community vigilantly watch the forthcoming elections in 2019 and 2020,” Mr. Haraszti stressed.

The Special Rapporteur cited the fresh findings of the UN Committee Against Torture. “Ill-treatment amounting to torture is used as a systemic tool that serves the overall oppressive legal framework in Belarus, while there are no effective national preventive or monitoring mechanisms, or effective legal remedies.”

“Belarus, alone in Europe and in the former Soviet territories, continues to carry out executions. The President, although he has the right to do so, has not ordered a moratorium on executions, or commuted death sentences to prison terms,” Mr. Haraszti said.

The lack of freedoms has shaped the lives of several generations of people in Belarus, Mr. Haraszti noted. “A 22-year-old in Belarus now has never experienced free and fair elections, is afraid to publicly express political views, does not have access to different media or to a diverse culture, and finds it normal to undertake forced labour at weekends.”

“The mandate of the Special Rapporteur is an invaluable tool for the Human Rights Council that gives visibility to abuse and offers some protection to human rights defenders. Therefore, I recommend that the mandate be renewed until tangible progress is achieved,” Mr. Haraszti concluded.

ENDS

Mr. Miklós Haraszti (Hungary) was designated as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012. In the 70s, Mr. Haraszti was a founder of Hungary’ s human rights and free press movement, and in the 1990s he was a Member of the Hungarian Parliament. From 2004 to 2010, he served as the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. Since 2010, he has been a Professor at several universities teaching media democratization.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Belarus

For more information and media requests please contact Mr. Alexandre Girard (+41 22 917 9180 / agirard@ohchr.org) or write to sr-belarus@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact
Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rightshttp://www.standup4humanrights.org/en/