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Volha Smalianka: Human rights fighters are displeased with observer status in West-Belarus dialog

04.02.2016  |  Society   |  EuroBelarus Information Service,  
Volha Smalianka: Human rights fighters are displeased with observer status in West-Belarus dialog

International community should know about the consolidated stance of Belarusan human rights defenders, emphasizes Volha Smalianka, the head of the Centre for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend”.

On January 28 the “Concerted position by Belarusian human rights organisations on priorities in shaping the strategy of international partners' relations with Belarus” was published. The document says that “despite certain positive tendencies over the past six months, there have been no systemic changes aimed at a comprehensive improvement of the human rights situation in Belarus.” In this context, the human rights defenders regard “further improvement of the human rights situation as a top priority for both Belarusian human rights defenders and international partners in shaping the strategy for relations with Belarus.”

Let us note that on December 9 the human rights defenders called upon the government “to take urgent restorative measures”.

“The first appeal contains five provisions, which the Belarusan human rights organizations that signed the document believe to be an indicator, a touchstone that can assess the situation with human rights in the country, - Volha Smalianka, the head of the Centre for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend” notes in the commentary to the EuroBelarus Information Service. – These are the first and foremost steps for realization of which no complicated actions on the part of the state are needed; they do not require amendments to the legislation, and so on”.

"Why did a need for the second appeal to appear? The presence of a consolidated position of Belarusan human rights organizations working in different directions is important. The first document is addressed primarily to the government, because we see that the system changes in the human rights sphere do not take place, despite the constant talks about certain liberalization and thaw between Belarus and Europe. The importance of any minor improvements is exaggerated; meanwhile since the beginning of the year we see some deterioration in the human rights sphere, - Volha Smalianka says. – The target of the second appeal is the international community. It is really important for us that the focus of human rights does not drop out of sight of both European organizations and UN agencies. Here we translate what we think is important namely for the international community. Let me recall that recently there have been some changes in the attitude of the international community towards Belarus in this sphere, the issue of extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights is considered; the dialogue on human rights between Belarus and the European Union has resumed or, rather, has started anew."

As for feedback after the first appeal, "the government does not contact the human rights organizations." "In general, the dialogue of the state authorities with human rights organizations in Belarus is something quite strange. I.e. the state talks about cooperation; but at the same time, the state turns to human rights organizations, when it is necessary - for example, when preparing the national report for the Universal Periodic Review, i.e. when it has to report, not to hear the opinion of human rights defendants. And after the first appeal there was no contact of the state with human rights organizations," – says Volha Smalianka.

According to her, for human rights fighters "it is important that the two sides - the international community and the Belarusian state - hear our position, because of the Belarusian civil society is not directly involved into the dialogue on human rights, although from our point of view it is very important that we were inside this process that we have been included in it as partners and not as outsiders."

Belarusian human rights organisations publish concerted position

We, the representative of the Belarusian human rights organisations, note that despite certain positive tendencies over the past six months, there have been no systemic changes aimed at a comprehensive improvement of the human rights situation in Belarus. In this context, we regard further improvement of the human rights situation as a top priority for both Belarusian human rights defenders and international partners in shaping the strategy for relations with Belarus.

Therefore, we call upon the international community:

1. To continue ensuring international scrutiny over the human rights situation in Belarus, including by renewing the mandate of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus;

2. The European Union to adopt, as EU Council conclusions, and make public a plan of minimal measures expected from the Belarusian authorities to ensure human rights progress in Belarus; and to develop with the Belarusian authorities a roadmap on the implementation of the aforementioned plan, which must include the full cooperation with mechanisms of the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and points listed in an open letter by the Belarusian human rights organisations of 9 January 2015:

2.1.Close the politically motivated criminal cases against journalist Aliaksandr Alesin, graffiti artists Maksim Piakarski, Vadzim Zharomski, Viachaslau Kasinerau, politician Ales Mikhalevich, as well as to review IN A PUBLIC TRIAL the criminal case of Mikhail Zhamchuzhny (founder of the human rights organization Platform Innovation); remove convictions in order to restore the civil and political rights of former political prisoners.

2.2.Remove a ban on entry into the country earlier imposed on Belarusian human rights activist Alena Tankachova, and to ensure safe conditions for the return of persons who were forced to leave the country due to political persecution.

2.3.Register the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and other non-profit organizations who choose to apply for registration.

2.4.Put an end to the persecution of journalists of the Belsat TV channel and Radio Racyja, as well as other journalists working for foreign media, and refrain from interfering with their professional activity in the country.

2.5.Introduce a moratorium on executions.

2.6.Repeal Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code, as well as a ban on the activity on behalf of unregistered organizations;

2.7.Launch systematic work with a view to bring the legislation of Belarus in the sphere of human rights in line with international standards.

3. To regard the Belarusian human rights community as an actor in the human rights dialogues between the EU and Belarus and between the US and Belarus and to include the Belarusian human rights community as an equal partner in these processes.

The Belarusian human rights organisations consider that the combination of constant monitoring, political pressure and an inclusive dialogue opening a space for the civil society is necessary to obtain advances for human rights in Belarus.

Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities

Legal Transformation Centre LAWTREND

Belarusian Documentation Centre

Committee for the Protection of the Repressed Salidarnasc

Initiative FORB partnership on expertise and law

Human Rights Center Viasna

Belarusian Association of Journalists

The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

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