Human Rights Watch shares the Special Rapporteur’s view that there have been no improvements to the systemic, entrenched curtailment of basic human rights in Belarus, and that the administrative framework for human rights has further deteriorated. In addition, we are concerned about the continuing non-cooperation by the Belarusian authorities with the United Nations and the OSCE.
Belarus has taken no meaningful steps to improve the country’s poor human rights record since 2010. Rather, they imposed further legislative restrictions on freedom of expression (both online and offline) and freedom of assembly and association. The peaceful exercise of these fundamental freedoms can lead to criminal sanction.
In August 2015, Mikalai Statkevich, Ihar Alinevich, Mikalai Dziadok, Yauhen Vaskovich, Artsyom Prakapenka, and Yuri Rubtso, sentenced in previous years following politically motivated trials, were pardoned and released on “humanitarian grounds.” But, like others convicted following political trials and released since 2011, their criminal records have not been expunged, preventing them from occupying governmental jobs or standing in elections. Once released, a number of such prisoners remain on law enforcement “preventative watch lists,” authorizing police to question them frequently. Some have also been forbidden, without explanation, from leaving Belarus.
The government has not reformed legislation and practices that impose severe restrictions on the work of nongovernmental organizations in the country. Existing legislation on public gatherings makes it virtually impossible to obtain the required official authorization for holding a peaceful assembly. The authorities continue to use arbitrary detentions, searches, interrogations and misdemeanor charges on bogus grounds to harass and intimidate government critics.
As Belarus is preparing to hold new parliamentary elections in the autumn, we are concerned that the human rights situation may again deteriorate on the eve and in the aftermath of the vote. Although the Special Rapporteur has not been given access by the authorities, from the moment of its establishment, the mandate has been extremely helpful in maintaining international attention on the ongoing repression and in identifying which measures and reforms the Government should undertake to put an end to its repressive policies and legislation. To maintain monitoring and facilitate rapid reaction to potential further deterioration of the situation, the Council needs to support the renewal of the existing mandate under Item 4.