||Focus: Human Rights||
Human Rights Watch respectfully submits the following recommendations:
The Government of Belarus should:
C Immediately cease its campaign of repression against politically active students, reinstate those students expelled for their political beliefs and activities, including Denis Bobikov and Anatol' Britsen formerly of the Gorky Academy of Agriculture, Evgenny Skochko, formerly of the Belarusian State Technical University, and Ales' Mukhin formerly of SISRU State Information System and Radioelectronics University and others;
C Ensure a prompt and impartial process for students to appeal expulsions;
C Institute procedures to ensure that academic decisions, including selection of rectors and other university administrators, is made according to academic criteria and not partisan political considerations;
C End the practice of pressuring rectors in the non-state sector on the composition of their faculty and content of their curricula. Such issues must be decided on academic merit alone in order to preserve the freedom of expression necessary to guarantee academic integrity;
C Allow the publication of history textbooks that depart from Soviet-era texts and encourage academic researchers to research and publish on issues of their choice;
C Immediately cease measures intended to deny the access of private education initiatives, such as the Peoples' University and the Belarusian Association of Women Lawyers', to facilities in which to hold classes or civic education seminars;
C Work with legislators to repeal the overly restrictive Law on Gatherings, Meetings, Street Marches, Demonstrations, and Pickets, which, in addition to violating Belarusian citizens' right to freedom of assembly, is abused by local authorities to deny permission to private educational initiatives to hold educational seminars;
C Repeal article 12 of the 1992 Law on Education which prohibits the formation and/or activities of political parties or groups linked with political parties on campus; and
C Repeal article 16 of the Law on the Police which provides police the right to inform a detainee's place of work or study about the fact of their detention.
The Government of the Russian Federation should:
C Use its considerable power and influence with the Belarusian government to press for the lifting of constraints on academic freedom, and freedoms of expression and assembly identified in this report; and
C Convey its extreme disapproval of repression in Belarusian academia, pointing out the comparatively open environment in the Russian education system that has developed in the post-Soviet period.
The European Union should:
C Publicly condemn violations of academic freedom, freedom of expression, association, and assembly in Belarus;
C Continue to support the development of human rights and democracy in Belarus and to include programs promoting respect for academic freedom in such work; and
C Extend financial support to private universities and other education initiatives and develop programs to support independent research and publications.
The Council of Europe should:
C Maintain suspension of Belarus' membership application until such time as Belarus has made demonstrable progress in restoring the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly.
The Advisory and Monitoring Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Minsk should:
C Continue to actively monitor and report publicly on human rights abuses in Belarus, placing special emphasis on monitoring and engaging the government on violations of academic freedom;
C Sponsor an international conference in Minsk on academic freedom in Belarus and invite international experts to give their assessment, along with representatives of the state and independent educational sectors and relevant government officials; and
C Meet with students and faculty members who have been expelled or fired, or threatened with such, for politically motivated reasons, and raise such cases with the Belarusian government.
The Government of the United States should:
C Continue to support the development of civil society in Belarus and place particular emphasis on respect for academic freedom; and
C Continue to monitor human rights violations and pay particular attention to:
C politically motivated harassment and expulsion of students;
C politically motivated harassment and dismissal of lecturers;
C incidents of de facto censorship of the academic community.
Academic institutions and governments that sponsor international academic exchanges and international educational foundations should:
C consider excluding faculty and administrators from Belarus found to have engaged in violations of academic freedom from such exchanges;
C Consider rescinding grants and awards made to Belarusian state universities that abuse academic freedom or make future financial support contingent on tangible improvements in respect for academic freedom; and
C Sponsor seminars in Belarus and elsewhere on academic freedom restrictions in Belarus and invite international experts to give their assessments.