Serious battles have started at the UN over the report on the situation in Belarus.
UN Human Rights Council’s 24th session is taking place in Geneva. It is the UN’s main body dealing with the issue of human rights in the world. On 4 June in the framework of the session the presentation took place of the first report of the special reporter on the situation with human rights in Belarus Miklós Haraszti, who had been appointed in July last year. The report severely criticized the policy of Belarusian authorities, said about cruel treatment of political prisoners, which can be equated to tortures, and also about systemic violations of human rights by the Lukashenka regime.
On 12-13 June the UN Human Rights Council will consider a resolution on Belarus, based on Miklós Haraszti’s report.
Yuriy Dzhibladze is a representative of the International Control Committee for Human Rights in Belarus, the president of Russian Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, who participated in the debates on 4 June. In an interview to charter97.org he discusses the prospects for this resolution and the prolongation of the special reporter’s mandate.
- On the day of Miklós Haraszti report’s discussion, a serious battle broke out at the UN, which was expected, though, since the Belarusian government, as we know, does not recognize the credentials of the special reporter and did not let him into the country, having refused from cooperation. At the same time official Minsk claimed that this European Union’s initiative was a political instrument, aimed at changing the authorities in Belarus and had nothing to do with human rights. This position finds fairly serious support from the authoritarian “club” of a whole number of countries, which, unfortunately, is currently headed by Russia.
Actually, Russia was the first to speak during the debates. Moreover, Russia spoke twice. First it spoke as a representative of (we could not believe what we heard!) “the like-minded countries”. There are territorial groups in the UN Human Rights Council: Western, Asian, African, Latin American etc. But they identified themselves as a “group of like-minded countries”, which included countries from different continents, united by the complete disregard to human rights and authoritarian leadership.
Several years ago it could be imagined that Russia would be ashamed to become the leader of such a group, but now a representative of the Russian Federation proudly read the list of the like0minded: Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, China, Laos, Zimbabwe etc. All these countries categorically spoke against the creation of special reporters mandates on the situation in any countries and in Belarus, in particular.
That is why it was extremely important to speak during the debates and explain the importance of the UN and whole international community’s constant attention to the lasting human rights crisis in Belarus.
- How do you assess Miklós Haraszti’s report?
- Miklós Haraszti is a very good reporter. His report pictures very well that the situation in Belarus have not improved, but have even worsened, since the adoption of the last year’s UN resolution and the establishment of the special reporter’s position.
The special reporter clearly shows this deterioration: keeping political prisoners in custody, constantly increasing pressure on them with the aim to force pleas for pardon and acknowledgements of guilt out of them, continuing persecution of the civil society and opposition, impendent journalists, lawyers, virtually absent freedom of association, assembly, expression, tortures in the penitentiary system, the impunity of human rights violators, the absence of independent judiciary and the atmosphere of fear in the country.
This report and the mandate of t special reporter are necessary for building the relations between the Lukashenka regime and the international community on the principles of observation of international obligations in the sphere of human rights, starting from the very basics – the release and exoneration of all the political prisoners, who are now in custody, and the exoneration of everyone who have been released or have served their terms already.
It is necessary to keep observing the situation in Belarus, since many hope (not only Belarus, but this whole group of authoritarian countries) to cancel the mandate of the special reporter.
- What is this authoritarian “club” afraid of and why the mandate of a special reporter on Belarus is so important?
- Now the voices are growing stronger of those, who stand for the resumption of a dialogue with the Lukashenka regime with no preconditions, allegedly coming from the assumption that the pressure based on the demands to respect human rights and the rule of law does not give results. It is clear that if attentive and principled observation of the situation in Belarus is continued by the effort of the special reporter and in cooperation with representatives of the civil society, opposition, independent journalists, then the dialogue with no precondition will not go ahead.
That Haraszti cannot enter Belarus does not mean that he does not know the situation, because he meets Belarusians in Vilnius, Kiev, Moscow, Warsaw. Apart from that, there is internet and the opportunity to communicate with the victims and their relatives. He knows the situation very well.
Effective pressure on the Lukashenka regime can be put by those, with whom he has economic relations, in particular the European Union’s countries and the United States. (It is clear that Russian plays its role too, but in this sense Russia puts pressure in its own interests not linking those to human rights and the rule of law). A tough UN’s resolution, objective materials and continued attention to the situation in Belarus in future are needed in order for the strategy towards Belarus to be based on principled positions.
These demands, this resolution can serve a base for the policy of those, who have real leverages of influence on the Lukashenka regime. Otherwise political games start, often based on economic interests and personal interests of certain politicians, who need to show some “success”.
If this strategy is based on human rights with a reference to the UN documents, then it will be very difficult to make any deals with the regime, playing by the rules of Lukashenka, agreeing to the bargain over hostages and not putting forwards the demands to systemic changes, holding human rights violators responsible, the investigation of the 19 December 2010 events.
- Who do you think will win at the resolution’s consideration: the civilized world of or the “dictators club”?
- The draft resolution was supported by the European Union’s countries, more and more others join it. The confrontation is seen on the Belarusian example between the countries which stick to the principles an devalues of the UN Statute and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the authoritarian countries, which have long drifted away from these principles or never followed them.
The chances are good. Of course, certain compromises are inevitable. But we hope that these compromises will not be of principled character. We also hope that the special reporter’s mandate will be prolonged for at least a year. But the most important is that there must be clear criteria on which any interaction with the Lukashenka regime must be based.