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Belarus human rights record “devastating” as president tightens grip on power – UN expert

NEW YORK (27 October 2017) –  Belarus has a “devastating” record on human rights which has worsened over two decades as the president has consolidated his grip on absolute power, a UN human rights expert has told the General Assembly in New York.

“The merger of all powers in the hands of the president is both the origin and the purpose of the country’s depressing state of human rights,” said Miklós Haraszti, Special Rapporteur on human rights in Belarus.

“The Government of Belarus returned this year to mass oppression of those who protested against its policies. The reasons for the cyclical character of violent crackdowns lie in a governing system which is singlehandedly directed by the president, incumbent for a quarter of a century.

“Human rights have fallen prey to the maintenance of a state structure set up for the purpose of protecting his power. The result is the devastating human rights situation we see today.”

Belarus had constantly tightened its permission-based regime and the criminalization of unregistered activities, a policy which had not relented over the past two decades, the Special Rapporteur said.

“This policy has managed to reduce occurrence of movements for change, but could not fully eradicate citizens’ attempts at exercising their rights. It is in these instances, such as in 2010 and 2017, when mass repression was used to restore fearful silence,” said Mr. Haraszti.

“The absence of any meaningful progress should mobilize the partners of Belarus to continue monitoring the state of human rights and pressure those in power in Minsk to start reviewing oppressive policies.”

A violent crackdown and mass arrests targeting peaceful demonstrators in March had mirrored the events that led to the creation of his mandate, demonstrating the lack of change in the country’s repeating pattern of repression, Mr Haraszti reminded. As in 2010, political opponents had been arrested and charged with made-up crimes, he added.

Belarus’ so-called human rights action plan would make no difference to the overall situation, the Special Rapporteur said, as it envisaged no concrete action and disregarded the repeated recommendations of UN human rights bodies and procedures for ways to improve civil and political rights.

Mr. Haraszti paid tribute to civil society organisations and human rights defenders in Belarus for continuing their work despite criminalization, detention and constant harassment.

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 democratisation. 

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 in New York please contact: Ravina Shamdasani (+1 917 367 2227 / ravina.shamdasani@un.org) or Nenad Vasic (+1 212 963 5998 / vasic@un.org

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