2008 09/12

Дэклярацыя - гуманістычны здабытак …December 10 marks the anniversary of the UN Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

It is World War II that made major powers of the world found an international organization to avert the crimes against humanity the world had had to face during the war. Belarus was one of the founding members of the newly created body – the United Nations Organization.

The UNO declared protecting human rights as one of its principle objectives, the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948 being the first and probably the most significant decision made by the organization. The declaration was to proclaim that all people have equal rights and freedoms.

The preamble to the Declaration says that ‘disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people’. It is essential ‘if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law’.

The Declaration remains the fundamental document in the field of human rights. Numerous human rights international treaties are based on its principles.

All the countries of the world, including Belarus, accept the Declaration as a legally binding document. The Republic of Belarus undertook obligations to respect, protect and maintain the rights of its citizens. However, what we witness is a total disregard of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
The right to life is one of the inalienable rights, i.e. no one can deprive a human being of life, even for the sake of the state. Meanwhile, Belarus is the only European country to apply the death penalty.

Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
The introduction of state-controlled ideology has dramatically restrained the freedom of opinion; it has become a source of persecuting dissenters. Thousands of people have been put to prison for expressing their convictions since 1996. The country has a well-established tradition of political prisoners.

Belarus introduced a total control over mass media, most of them being state-owned. Belarusian mass media have become a powerful means of state propaganda: as a result, there is practically no alternative information available in the country, scarce independent media being outlawed.

Article 20. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Everyone has a right to express opinions on issues of civil and political importance through holding peaceful assemblies. The exercise of this right is restrained by Belarusian authorities. The year of 2006 was marked by the introduction of the so-called ‘preventive detentions’, used to prevent politically active citizens from partaking in most significant events of the country.

A number of international human rights organizations, including, FIDH, have repeatedly pointed to systematic infringements to the freedom of association in Belarus. The state has suppressed any independent civil activity through ‘mass cleansings’ in the Belarusian third sector, causing hundreds of educational, youth and human rights non-profit organizations cease their activities in the country. The introduction of criminal prosecution for membership in an unregistered NGO has been condemned by human rights experts, both in Belarus and abroad. 14 persons have been convicted by Belarusian courts of similar crimes over the past two years, 5 of them were sentenced to imprisonment.

Article 8. Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Today, Belarus has no independent judicial system. This deprives Belarusian citizens of any opportunities to pursue a legal remedy in case their rights have been violated by the state.

All this has aroused much criticism by influential international human rights organizations. Since 2003, the UN Assembly has adopted five resolutions on human rights in Belarus, calling upon the government to improve the situation and ensure the implementation of all the obligations undertaken by Belarus in the field of human rights. Mass infringements to the fundamental rights and freedoms resulted in a number of sanctions (including travel bans) against leading Belarusian officials.

The consistent policy of the world community made Belarusian authorities take several steps to improve the situation in the field of human rights in the country, including the release of all the political prisoners and the drop of the ban forcing independent mass media to be published abroad. Considering this, the European Union has resolved to suspend travel ban on President Lukashenka and a number of higher officials, except for the persons suspected of organizing the kidnapping and possible murder of several Belarusian politicians and a journalist, and head of the Central Electoral Committee.

Under these circumstances, we can hope that Belarusian authorities will continue taking similar measures to improve the situation with human rights in the country.

We, the citizens of Belarus, want to live in a state that would respect, protect and secure our rights, implement its international obligations.

We would like to congratulate you on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!

Human dignity and justice for all!

Ales Leta,


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