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Belarus: Violations of human rights and freedoms continue

GENEVA (2 July 2019) – The human rights situation in Belarus appears stable and calm but remains fundamentally poor with no significant improvements, a UN expert said today.

Anaïs Marin, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, particularly deplored the lack of progress and political will on the issue of the death penalty.

Marin, in her first report to the Human Rights Council, also highlighted the additional restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom following amendments to the country’s media law. “These measures are clearly intended to intimidate critical voices into self-censorship and prevent them from contributing to public debate,” she said.

The decriminalisation of the activities of unregistered organisations and the simplification of authorisation procedures for mass events were welcome steps, but “abusive restrictions to freedom of association and peaceful assembly remain recurrent”.

The Special Rapporteur paid particular attention to the deplorable conditions of detention of children deprived of their liberty as part of a strict drug policy. “Since under international law, the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, I consider the treatment of these children to be of grave concern,” Marin said.

The expert also highlighted ongoing discrimination towards groups such as Roma and members of the LGBTI community.

“The violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms highlighted in my report may appear as less systematic, but they still have a systemic character,” she said. In view of the cyclical nature of human rights violations in Belarus, she called on the Council to be more vigilant ahead of the forthcoming electoral cycle.

The Special Rapporteur welcomed the efforts of the Government to engage in dialogue with civil society and its renewed engagement with United Nations human rights mechanisms. She stressed the need to continue these commitments.

As Belarus does not recognise her mandate, Marin could not visit the country. However, she reiterated her readiness to engage in a dialogue with the authorities, if it leads to concrete improvements in the protection and promotion of human rights.

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