Belarus criticises politicisation of the Council during interactive dialogue on the country
Tuesday, 27 September 2011 14:03


On 20 September 2011 the Human Rights Council (the Council) held an interactive dialogue under item 4 on the High Commissioner’s oral report on the human rights situation in Belarus. The dialogue saw stark disagreement between the European Union (EU) States on the one hand, and Belarus with support from Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and China, on the other hand, about the effectiveness of country-specific resolutions in this particular case, and in general. The EU called on the Government authorities to immediately release all political prisoners and journalists, abolish the death penalty, and adhere to the provisions of resolution 17/24, which was adopted at the 17th Human Rights Council session. On the other hand, Russia, Cuba, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe strongly opposed the adoption of such resolutions and targeted this aspect of the work of the Council as being politicised and involving double standards. States made several concrete recommendations as to how the human rights situation in Belarus could be addressed, but these were not well-received by Belarus. Belarus took the opportunity to explain its reluctance to implement resolution 17/24.


Speaking before the Council, Deputy High Commissioner, Ms Kyung-wha Kang, requested the Government authorities to accept the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) mission in Belarus and allow the investigation of the circumstances in which people were detained. Ms Kang criticised the Government for their reluctance to release all political activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, noting in particular Mr Aliaksandr Bialatski, Vice-President of the Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'Homme (FIDH), and condemned violations of freedom of expression and assembly. Additionally, Ms Kang stressed the need for the Government to abolish capital punishment and to cooperate with the special procedures, the UPR, and the Council of Europe. Ms Kang highlighted the crucial need for OHCHR to gain access to the country and provide not only technical assistance but also to assess the situation and compile the report requested for the 20th session of the Council.


In his statement to the Council, Mr Mikhail Khvostov, Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus, stated that the country-specific resolution on Belarus contradicts the principles contained in the institution-building package of the Council, including impartiality, objectivity, and non-selectivity. He described country-specific resolutions as a politicised working method. The Ambassador outlined the reasons for the reluctance to cooperate with OHCHR on resolution17/21, including the fact that Belarus perceives the EU's policy as being to present Belarus as a special case of non-compliance in the field of human rights. Additionally, Mr Khvostov claimed that the resolution is driven by the political motive of overthrowing the Government, and thus cannot serve as a basis for collaboration with the Council.


The Ambassador also concurred with criticism made of the High Commissioner's report. In particular, he indicated that although the arguments and positions of Belarus in relation to the events of 19th December 2010 were provided to OHCHR, these were not reflected in the report. Mr Khvostov expressed his further regret that OHCHR did not adhere to the official document issued by the Government of Belarus in regards to post-election events in December, and instead relied on ‘secondary sources’, resulting in the biased account of the events of 19th December 2010 contained in the report.


Moreover, the Ambassador expressed his disagreement with the EU’s definition of the concept of peaceful demonstration. In particular he noted that assaulting a government’s building is a criminal offence and not a peaceful event as claimed by the EU. The Ambassador indicated that the 19th December 2010 protests were organised by those seeking power by force, who violated the legislation of Belarus and international law. In response to the concerns about those detained, the Ambassador referred to the decision by the Prosecutor-General and the Supreme Court of Belarus, which inspected the legality of the detentions, the treatment of prisoners, and the validity of their sentences. In his closing remarks, Mr Khvostov highlighted that the Government had accepted most of the UPR recommendations made to it, and is willing to cooperate with the UN and maintain open dialogue.


During the interactive dialogue Russia, along with Cuba, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, supported Belarus’ position and criticised country specific resolutions as being often based on political motives. Cuba in particular raised its voice about the continuing politicisation of the Council and argued that the country-specific resolution perpetuates the negative stereotyping of Belarus, instead of promoting open dialogue and collaboration. This view was shared by the Russian Federation, which also highlighted Belarus’ willingness to cooperate with the Council as demonstrated by its acceptance of most of the UPR recommendations that the country received in May 2010.


The EU disagreed with these positions and emphasised the need for Belarus to cooperate fully with the special procedures and allow them to visit Belarus. France argued that no improvement had been made in Belarus since the adoption of resolution 17/24 and stressed the need for the special procedures to be able to visit the country to investigate the human rights situation. This view was shared by the Scandinavian States, in particular Norway and Sweden. These States also urged the Government to release political prisoners and abolish the death penalty, which is still in force in the country. Iran on the other hand provided suggestions for establishing independent national human rights mechanism to help implement human rights policies in Belarus and encourage dialogue between the Council and the country concerned. The majority of States agreed that it is crucial that the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners, human rights defenders, and other civil society actors should be the next step taken by the Government of Belarus. In addition to this, the Government was recommended to have a moratiorium on capital punishment. States called on Belarus to show willingness to cooperate with the Council by addressing these recommendations.


In his response, Mr Khvostov expressed his appreciation for those who objected to the adoption of a country-specific resolution on Belarus and reiterated the counter-productivity of having such resolutions at the Council. The Ambassador also stated that the Government is willing to cooperate with OHCHR and has sent invitations to eight special thematic procedures of the Council as well as having issued an invitation in August 2011 for the High Commissioner to visit Minsk. However, no response was given in regards to the release of political prisoners and the abolition of the death penalty.


The main concern for OHCHR was the need for access to Belarus to continue investigations into those detained and the human rights situation in the country, in order to compile the report requested for the 20th session of the Council. Belarus has not yet given permission for the OHCHR mission to enter the country. It did, however, state its willingness to cooperate with the Council such as through the invitations it had sent to eight special procedures, which indicates some possibility for the continuation of the dialogue between the Council and the country concerned.



Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 14:08
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