2010 10/09

On September 10 in Minsk the representatives of Belarusian public community presented monitoring of how the situation in Belarus developed from November, 2008 till September, 2010. (further – orthography of primary sources)

The representatives of Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Human Right Centre “Viasna”, Belarusian Association of Journalists, Non-Governmental Organizations Assembly, The Repressed Defending Committee and other organizations worked upon these documents.

Before, on September 8, the monitoring was presented to the officials of European Union in Brussels.

“On October 13, 2008 European Union Council decided to lift visa sanctions against some higher Belarusian officials. In October 2010 EU will review its decision and further relations with Belarusian government. Since the beginning of this period more than fifty Belarusian and international organizations have been preparing their reports about the main events in Belarus for EU politicians to have the most actual information about human rights in the country. This is the seventh report which contains recommendations of EU’s policy towards Belarus and criteria to evaluate the progress of the country, and also sums up the events of the mentioned period including the very last one”, – the goals of Belarusian experts are being explained in the document.

This document is unique because its authors represented criteria of measuring progress – towards independent mass media, freedom of associations and public community’s state – by which the representatives of European Union can evaluate the development of the situation in Belarus.

As Valiantsin Stefanovich, the representative of HC “Viasna” and one of the document’s authors noted, the main criterion of evaluation is the criterion of system changes enshrined in legislation.

The biggest part of the criteria suggested to measure the progress is connected with legislation – accepting changes in Elective Code according to the standards of OSCE, Law “About public events”, “About religion” according to the international standards, cancelling article 193-1 and disinformation articles of Criminal Code which don’t correspond Constitution of Republic of Belarus and international standards. Those are the criteria according to which we will observe the situation, – explained V. Stefanovich.
Human right activist told about some conclusions made during the monitoring:

-Unfortunately we didn’t observe systemized actions aimed at democratization of the country. But we can name several positive aspects. The number of people arrested for participation in demonstrations lessened but at the same time we can’t say that rights for peaceful associations and expression improved. All meetings keep on being forbidden as they were before. The participants are just being released without making protocol and being drawn to administration responsibility. The positive thing is that works upon draught law about alternative service has begun, but there are really little positive things like this one.
V. Stefanovich has also paid attention to the last events which human right activists are concerned about:

-Death of journalist Aleh Biabenin does concern us greatly. We stand for a maximum openness and transparence of investigation and for not only the version of suicide but also other versions being observed. We approve invitation of international OSCE experts, but we’d also like the representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations to learn the results of the investigation.
We are also worried about the last arrests on suspicion of embassy arson. According to our information, today 11 people are arrested and they are not only representatives of anarchist groups but also members of “Right alliance” and Belarusian Party of Freedom. In this situation we are worried about the fact that our authorities often like to neglect legal norms and procedures of Criminal Code when they have a goal to find defaulters. We stand for investigation to find guilty in the framework of legal procedures, without gross violations of human rights. In the situation observed we consider these arrests lawless and demand all people being released.

Chairman of Belarusian Associations of Journalists Zhanna Litvina described the situation in media sphere:

-I’m deeply convinced that in every society, especially in Belarusian one, the way to all democratic changes lies though informational changes and reforms in media sphere. Widening of public sphere and providing free exchange of information in the society is the main condition of democracy. Unfortunately the problems which journalists face are chronic and as long as president’s institution exists here there will be problems connected with freedom of speech and journalists’ activity.

The head of BAJ among all “chronic” problems first pointed at the problem connected with introducing equal economic conditions for mass media with different property forms:

-This problem which appeared in 2005 before last presidential elections hasn’t been solved during 5 years because there isn’t political decision and authority’s will to solve it. And now, before another presidential campaign we are facing the same problem –prohibition of non-governmental public and political publications distribution.

Zhanna Litvina also paid attention to problematic access to information in recent time: “authorities create barriers with the help of ideological vertical and don’t let journalists get information about activity of state ruling organs and state institutions”. One more simulated problem is accreditation of journalists who work for foreign mass media. We need declared way of accreditation as all civilized countries have. BelSAT TV channel and Radio Racyja want to be lawful; they prepare and file documents but are rebuffed every time without explanations”.

The head of BAJ paid special attention to the question of Belarusian internet space regulation:

-We were happy for so many years that there is space where free non-censored information prevails pure propaganda. But, unfortunately, decree #60 went into operation and this zone became limited too. The thing which bothers us most is limitation of internet users’ freedom and mechanisms of blocking web-sites which don’t satisfy the today’s ruling power. I think that with forthcoming presidential elections we’ll face point blockade of the most professional information sites.

Zanna Litvina also spoke about growing activeness of KGB and procuracy. She also mentioned unprecedented event – criminal case sued last year by KGB general with four known journalists as witnesses, so far.

“If authorities want to run serious democratization and serious changes in the country, they must first refuse of informational monopoly and start reforming media sphere”, – summarized Mrs. Litvina.

As for EU policy towards Belarus, the authors think that by recovering sanctions Europe would have no possibility to influence the situation in our country. This was the opinion of Aleh Hulak, the head of Belarusian Helsinki Committee:

-Obviously, there is not enough progress in human rights situation to speak about some serious changes and lifting visa sanctions. But we think that recovering sanctions is not effective. It is highlighted in our recommendations.

The representatives of public community call European Union to apply sanctions system towards Belarus more effectively and they also recommend not supporting technical projects of Belarusian repressive institutions like KGB and Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Quoting spring96.org
prepared by Ales LETA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *