21 January 2018, Sunday, 13:55

MFA representative had no wish to listen to human rights activists

Deputy head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich received an answer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to his appeal.

He appealed on the non-implementation by Belarus of the decision of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN in the case of the head of the organization, Ales Bialiatski.

In his appeal to the Minister Uladzimir Makei the human rights activist reminded that one of the tasks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to monitor the implementation of international agreements of the Republic of Belarus by the state bodies of the Republic of Belarus and to assist in the implementation of international treaties of the Republic of Belarus.

"Belarus is unable to accept for consideration the Views of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the UN Council on Human Rights and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention were informed about it", is stated in the MFA answer, dated 31 May and signed by the Deputy Minister Valiantsin Rybakou.

The official draws the following as the arguments: "Implementation of views of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is not subject to the international obligations of the Republic of Belarus in accordance with the international treaties to which the Republic of Belarus is a state party".

By this paragraph the Foreign Ministry demonstratively confirmed the refusal of the Belarusian state to implement the decision of the Working Group and refusal from non-cooperation. Indeed, in his address, Valiantsin Stefanovich again emphasized the fact that "the UN special procedures (including the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention) are subsidiary organs of the United Nations. They were created by the Human Rights Council and report to it. Members of WGAD are elected by the Advisory Group, which is appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, on the basis of knowledge and experience with their mandate, integrity, independence and impartiality. Their legal conclusions, such as the aforementioned decision in the case of Ales Bialiatski, are decisions of the UN. The Republic of Belarus as a UN member state has an obligation to cooperate with all UN bodies and mechanisms (as provided for in Article 56 of the UN Charter), as well as related agreements, including the ICCPR, which Belarus ratified in 1973." Obviously, the representatives of the Foreign Ministry did not want to hear the arguments of the human rights activist.

"This answer, in principle, completely fits in the overall context of the position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Belarusian delegation to the UN in Geneva, on the decision of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in the case of Ales Bialiatski", says Valiantsin Stefanovich. "Let me remind you that in March, the Belarusian delegation to the UN actually said that Belarus refuses to cooperate with the Working Group, as it believes that it "by far exceeds its powers" and "violates professional ethics". MFA actually proved once again what I have said in my speech at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council: Belarus ignores its obligations and evades from their performance."

At the same time, the high-rank officials deliberately emphasize their relation to personality of Ales Bialiatski, thus demonstrating their own bias and prejudice. Their speech at the March session of the UN Human Rights Council was quite rude, using such expressions as "so-called human rights activist Bialiatski," "non-governmental organizations that have positioned themselves as human rights ones", "we consider the opinion of the Working Group as an attempt to justify a criminal by labelling him as a human rights defender."

In addition, the official Belarusian side accuses the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in that it "ignored the Government's information on this case, and for some reason did not include it in the report."

"I read these Opinions of the Working Group, and the information sent by the Belarusian government (that Ales Bialiatski allegedly evaded from paying taxes), was analyzed by the Working Group," said Valiantsin Stefanovich. "However, neither the investigation nor the court took any steps to establish the origin of the funds, which were foreign assistance for the activities of the Human Rights Centre "Viasna", and from the very beginning kept to the opinionthat these funds were personal income of Bialiatski. Although, if we talk about the essence of the case, the the orders of the Prosecutor's Office in Minsk weren't implemented – no one applied to the funds to find out what money it was. And as we know, proving one's guilt is the duty of the investigation and trial, not on the accused. Therefore, we believe that Ales Bialiatski's guilt was not proven in court, and his case is just the result of the policy of the Belarusian authorities in respect of non-governmental organizations when they first squeeze them into an illegal field, then criminalize the activities of unregistered organizations and access to financial aid, subsequently stating that their members are criminals."

The human rights activist also draws attention to the fact that the Working Group in its opinion clearly formulated not only negative obligations of the state in the field of freedom of association, but also positive ones, including the creation of appropriate conditions for the work of non-governmental organizations and receiving of finding both outside and inside the country. Obviously, Belarus did not meet either the positive or negative obligations – the state interferes in the activities of non-governmental organizations, harassing them and criminalizing their activities.