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Elena Tonkacheva: Cancellation of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus mandate is very shortsighted

08.07.2016  |  Society   |  Piotr Kuchta,  EuroBelarus
Elena Tonkacheva: Cancellation of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus mandate is very shortsighted

Belarusian human rights fighters, as well as Miklos Haraszti, don’t see systematic changes of the human rights situation in Belarus.

UN HRC renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus for one year. The corresponding decision was made on July 1, 2016 at the UN HRC Session in Geneva. 15 states supported the resolution, only 9 voted against, and 23 states abstained.

In his turn, the Head of the Permanent Mission of Belarus in Geneva, Yury Ambrazevich stated the Belarusian state and society do not need the advice of the Special Rapporteur.

Elena Tonkacheva, Belarusian human rights activist, the head of the Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend”, in the interview with the EuroBelarus Information Service notes that "the vast majority of Belarusian human rights organizations have consistently been defending the position that the position of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus should be maintained, with the exception of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, which for some unclear reasons took the opposite stance."

The head of the Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend” recalled that the position of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus has been introduced more than once, " first time it was abolished due to the urgent requirements of the Belarusian authorities, as other complementary human rights monitoring mechanisms have been introduced in the Republic of Belarus - The Universal Periodic Review." "Reestablishment of the position of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus happened in 2012 - as a response to the systemic crisis of human rights after the events of December 19, 2010. It became apparent that in the crisis situation it was necessary to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur; and that was implemented. During this time, Mr. Haraszti, as we know, has never been admitted to the territory of the Republic of Belarus. The state bodies refrain from communication and cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, thereby demonstrating the failure to conduct a real dialogue and unwillingness to work with the real facts and problems in the field of human rights ", - Elena Tonkacheva said.

After the political prisoners of December 2010 were released “some European institutions and some UN agencies started to characterize the situation as "liberalization" or "movement towards the improvement of the human rights situation." "However, I completely agree with Mr. Haraszti on the fact that we cannot state any systematic change in any of the areas related to democracy and human rights. In this connection, the cancellation of the position of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus mandate would be very shortsighted and ill-thought measure, - Elena Tonkacheva emphasized. - Moreover, we have no guarantees that the Belarusian officials have whatsoever clear action plan aimed, for example, at the abolition of the death penalty; we see no progress in media freedom issues; we see no progress in the problem of public participation in decision-making. Accordingly, to abolish the position of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus in this situation means depriving Belarusian society, depriving Belarusian citizens, and depriving Belarusian human rights organizations the mechanism of communication with the United Nations through a person, who is professionally watching the development of the situation with human rights – a human rights defender Miklos Haraszti. "

How was the decision to extend the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus and the resolution of the UN HRC taken.

The resolution mentions a series of grave human rights violations for which the Belarusian government is responsible, including torture, enforced disappearances, forced labour, violations of freedoms of the media, expression and association, the arbitrary detention and harassment of human rights defenders, political opponents and journalists, and impunity for human rights violations and abuses. It also deplores the government's lack of cooperation with UN and regional human rights mechanisms.

The vote on Belarus was a test of the Human Rights Council's resolve to push for progress at the national level”, said Ales Bialiatski, FIDH Vice-President and President of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”. “The ball is now in the government's court. It should implement key recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur over the past years, which are a clear road map for human rights reform”, he added.

During the meeting, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, has submitted his fourth report.

"The oppressive government has not changed since the establishment of the mandate after the brutal crackdown on the post-election protest in December 2010", - he said.

Miklós Haraszti said that the violations have continued even after the close of the Report and its submission in April, HRH Belarus quotes him saying.

“Several generations have grown up in Belarus, who do not know or have no experience of what the words pluralism, free artistic creation, free media, labor rights, free enterprise mean in reality,” said the UN Special Rapporteur.

“My findings underline that the current mandated level of scrutiny by the United Nations of compliance by Belarus with its human rights obligations must be maintained, especially in view of the forthcoming parliamentary elections. I reiterate my call towards the authorities to engage with the mandate,” - he concluded.

Mr. Haraszti concluded his statement by paying tribute to Belarusian civil organizations and human rights defenders, who “thankfully have endured and continued working in Belarus confronting the often forbidding environment”.

As HRC “Viasna” recalls, the Human Rights Council is the main UN body for the promotion and protection of human rights. It has the ability to appoint independent experts (“Special Rapporteurs”) in charge of monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights in countries. The Human Rights Council is made up of 47 states, which serve for a three-year term. Belarus has been on the Council's agenda since the violent repression of protests related to the 2010 presidential election.

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