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Aliaksei Kazliuk: Institute of UN Special Rapporteur is a meeting point on human rights situation

20.07.2015  |  Society   |  Piotr Kuchta,  EuroBelarus
Aliaksei Kazliuk: Institute of UN Special Rapporteur is a meeting point on human rights situation

The mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus has been prolonged for another year. It doesn’t seem to change much; however, the importance of this post is undoubted, though not obvious.

In his latest statement the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus Miklos Haraszti expressed concern about the fate of several political prisoners. He reiterated calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners. Apart from that, Haraszti also noted several other systemic violations of rights and freedoms in Belarus. His mandate was prolonged for another year, but it didn’t cause particular resonance in the Belarusan society. 

Aliaksei Kazliuk, the lawyer of the Legal Transformation Center “Lawtrend”, in the talk with the “EuroBelarus” Information Service explains why the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus is really important for the Belarusan civil society.

The latest resolution contains standard phrases that in certain wordings repeat the former resolutions, - notes Aliaksei Kazliuk. – What does it demonstrate? First of all, it shows that the situation isn’t improving, but isn’t critically worsening at the same time. There are no new serious challenges apart from problems with distribution of information in the Internet in the light of the latest steps of the government in this direction. At the same time neither the government demonstrates any willingness to improve something in the general situation with human rights nor international institutions understand what to do with that”.

According to the expert of the Legal Transformation Center “Lawtrend”, prolongation of the mandate followed some intrigue related to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure: “First, within the frames of the UPR human rights defendants saw several alternative reports on the part of the NGOs affiliated with the state or those structures that agreed with the state on the harmfulness of this institution for Belarus. Secondly, recently we’ve seen quite active unfreezing of relations on the part of other actors: EU, PACE. It could affect the behaviour of representatives of these structures in the UN Human Rights Council; fortunately, it didn’t happen”.

Aliaksei Kazliuk notes that after the prolongation of the mandate “we won’t witness considerable influence of the Special Rapporteur’s position on that of the government and, accordingly, on the situation with human rights”. “However, the position of the Special Rapporteur isn’t meant for that but rather for collecting all the information about observation of human rights in Belarus in one point so that poorly coordinated institutions inside UN would have at least some image of the situation with human rights in Belarus. For example, UPR is diffusing the situation a little bit because it raises a lot more issues apart from civic and political rights. But the position of a Special Rapporteur is an attempt to concentrate on civic and political rights as the basis for development of democratic processes in Belarus. If the government is telling about non-constructive stance of the Special Rapporteur, human rights defendants, on the contrary, find it well-balanced and constructive. All our materials and all the information gathered by the Belarusan human rights fighters is adequately revealed in Haraszti’s reports. The fact that there is no alternative viewpoint of the government is not the problem of the Special Rapporteur but the problem of the government that refuses to cooperate with him and refuses to allow Haraszti to the country”.

Aliaksei Kazliuk emphasizes that the stance of the Belarusan government towards observation of human rights and freedoms is that of the third-world country. “In the 21st century only third-world countries state that human rights is an internal affair of the state and that human rights in each country depend on the cultural context in order to justify systemic violations of human rights and in order to answer those countries which insist on human rights being an issue of international security. The world community admits that these issues cannot be internal; however, Belarusan foreign ministry refuses to admit that”.

According to Aliaksei Kazliuk, the position of the Special Rapporteur is in demand until Belarus at least gets representation of the High Commissioner for human rights and Officer for Human Rights under UN Representation: “We cannot state that we have full-fledged cooperation with the UN until we make such steps”.

Besides, in October 2015 Belarus is to have presidential elections: “It is a tough period and it is hard to predict the course of the campaign. That is one more reason why the world community needs the position of the Special Rapporteur – to get information about the developments with the high-quality assessment of the situation. We cannot say that 2015 and 2016 will be decisive in the work of the Special Rapporteur. We already understand what are the possibilities and the limitations of Mr. Haraszti as well as we understand that the government is unlikely to cross the former rhetoric and start cooperating with the Special Rapporteur. But nevertheless, we still see the importance of the Institute of UN Special Rapporteur as a meeting point on situation with human rights in UN and spread of information in UN institutions and for the international community in general”.

The authorities also mark the importance of the Haraszti’s position. Unlike PACE Special Rapporteur Andrea Rigoni, he is banned from entering Belarus: “Rigoni will be heading PACE mission at the elections. He is allowed to enter Belarus, he has a contract with officials, and that is where the authorities proceed from: why should we have the Institute of UN Special Rapporteur? But we don’t see Rigoni’s reports and public assessments… Well, there were some talks and meetings with the civil society, but we see nothing in result. These meetings worked against rather than for the benefit of the civil society. Haraszti is persona non-grata in Belarus; twice a year he presents reports as well as well-balanced and objective assessments on certain occasions. Obviously, the position of the UN Special Rapporteur is more clear, more transparent, and more useful for us”.

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