On April 15 press service of the United Civil party publicized a statement that representatives of the local branches of the Belarusian Social-Democratic party “Narodnaya Hramada” called upon the members of the People’s coalition Five Plus to address officially the coordinator of the European coalition “Free Belarus” and leader of the BSDP (NH) Mikola Statkevich with an appeal to “join the common work of the Five”. It is also said that at a meeting of the People’s coalition leaders and members of the parties confirmed their readiness to work in one format with the party of Mikola Statkevich. The USCP press service also asserts that this appeal is handed over to Mikola Statkevich on April 14, 2004. We asked Statkevich to comment on this rather strange initiative of the “Five”:
“The resolution on human rights situation in Belarus has a more serious nature than last year resolutions of the UN Commission on the same question. Firstly, it has reference to other international documents, for instance, to the report of the Council of Europe and decisions of the International Labour Organization. Secondly, as distinct from previous resolution, it foresees concrete measures of international response. First of all, it is appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Belarus, and visit of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to Belarus,” commented Andrei SANNIKOV, coordinator of the European coalition “Free Belarus” and international coordinator of civil initiative Charter’97, on the adoption of the resolution on human rights situation in Belarus by UN Human Rights Commission. As said by him, appointment of Special Rapporteur is used by the UN in cases when massive violations of human rights occur in a country. As examples the countries where such mechanism has been created can be named: Iraq, North Korea, Myanma.
The newspaper “Vitsebskaya Tribuna” recently was issued as a regional daily and was the only non-state newspaper in Vorsha and Vorsha region. The workers of the editorial office found out that they were denied license only by chance, when the time to renew the agreement with the printing house has come. The document about withdrawing a license has arrived by post in the middle of February, but the editor of the “Vitsebskaya Tribuna” Syarhei Serabr was not informed about it, and so he missed the possibility to appeal the decision of the Information Ministry in the court, the Radio Svaboda informs.
The human rights situation in Belarus was discussed on April 14 in Geneva at the meeting of a UN Secretary General’s special human rights envoy Hina Gilani with Ales Byalatski, the representative of the human rights center Viasna, shut down by the Belarusian authorities. According to the BelaPAN agency with reference to the press center of “Viasna”, Ales Byalatski “pointed to new facts of liquidation of non-governmental organizations in Belarus, instituting legal proceedings for criticism of the Belarusian authorities by oppositionists and human rights activists, persecution of youth and trade unions”. Hina Gilani expressed interest in new information from Belarus and also said that her office thoroughly keeps track of the human rights situation in Belarus. She also said that recently for a number of times she tried to come to an agreement with Belarusian authorities about her visit to Belarus, but had not received an affirmative reply.
Belarus may impose restrictive measures against textile imports from Europe, if the EU does not raise import quotas for Belarussian textiles after 10 new countries join it on May 1 2004, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Mikhnevich said.