On June 4, deputy chairman of the Human Rights Centre VIASNA took part in an interactive discussion on the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus.
Fragments of Valentin Stefanovich’s speech:
My name is Valentin Stefanovich; I am the Deputy Chair of the Human Right Center VIASNA. I have been leading this organization since our Chairman, Ales Bialatski, was arrested and sentenced to 4.5 years of imprisonment in a maximum security prison camp.
Human Right Center VIASNA and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcome the Report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus. The human rights situation in Belarus remains as bad as ever. Civil and political rights are subject to strict limitations. A number of political prisoners remain behind bars, including the former presidential candidate at the 2010 elections Mr. Statkevich, Chairman of the Human Right Center VIASNA and Vice-president of FIDH Mr. Bialiatski and the leader of the Young Front Mr. Dashkevich.
The country continues to use capital punishment, and death sentences are being passed and carried out. Activities of unregistered NGO are criminalized, and acceptance of financial assistance from abroad is considered to be against the law in violation of the March resolution by the UN Human Rights Council.
Belarus ignores resolutions of the Human Rights Committee, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and other international bodies. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus made an official statement to the effect that no decisions by the Human Rights Committee in individual cases shall be deemed binding. No decisions by the Human Rights Committee on individual complaints have been acted upon..
This past March, in response to the decision by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in the case of Ales Bialiatski who has been incarcerated since August 2011, the Belarusian delegation made an official announcement that it would stop cooperating with this UN mechanism.
Death sentences continue to be carried out despite a number of individual appeals in such cases registered and acted upon urgently by the Human Rights Committee, of which action Belarusian authorities have been duly informed.
We call on the Belarusian authorities to invite UN Special Rapporteurs into the country, including Special Rapporteurs on torture, human rights defenders, the independence of judges and lawyers and the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, as well as the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. We also call for a visit by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus who has repeatedly requested to be allowed access to gather information on the situation in the country from both the government agencies and independent NGOs
We would like to remind everyone concerned that Special Procedures are deemed to be auxiliary UN mechanisms, and their decisions are those by the UN. As a UN member state, Belarus must cooperate with all the UN bodies and mechanisms (as stipulated in Article 56 of the UN Charter) and is bound by any and all treaties ratified by this country.
The report on the situation in Belarus, prepared by Miklos Haraszti – the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, was presented at the 23rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that took place between May 27 and June 14. International human rights organizations and Mr Valentin Stefanovich, were invited to participate in the discussion concerning the report.
Miklós Haraszti had not been able to visit Belarus because the government refused to issue him an entry visa. The lack of cooperation of Belarus led to the fact that the human rights situation in Belarus had to be explored abroad, on the basis of summaries and conclusions drawn from meetings with representatives of Belarusian civil society.