2014 23/01

Human rights in the country and in the world – this is the topic of the program at UCP –TV. Vice-Chairman of the United Civil Party Leu Marholin talks to the Vice Chairman of the banned by the authorities human rights center ” Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich.

– In our country, human rights tend to be divided into two parts: the first one – the basic social-economic rights to work, recreation and education, and all the others – on rallies and demonstrations, which are considered to be nonsense. Once in the Soviet Union they were called bourgeois-democratic rights. Can one make such a division?

– Social-economic rights are the duty of the state in ensuring standards. It’s very difficult to imagine a state which ignores the civil and political rights while providing social-economic ones, it is probably impossible.

– In your opinion, when the political situation in the country will change, where should we begin to become a European country in terms of human rights?

– We won’t do without a constitutional reform, of course, especially in the question of allocation of powers. Now power is concentrated in the same hands. We need to ensure that all mechanisms of mutual balance have been restored. Then – a judicial reform, because only an independent judicial system implements all the rights.

– Can an independent judicial system exist, in general?

– There are many examples like this, we can learn from our neighbors. Ukraine has done a lot in the reform of the judiciary, judges there are not appointed by the president but by a special judicial council. Test-taking procedure is absolutely transparent. The reform has led to the fact that the number of acquittals in Ukraine increased by 4 times.

You can also look at the standards of the European Union. Of course, we can argue about the influence of public opinion and journalists on the court, it is probably impossible to get rid of, but most important, is that there would be no influence from the executive power.

– In our country there is Constitutional Court (CC), but the ordinary citizen, if he or she feels that his or her rights have been violated as a result of some new law, they can not appeal against this law…

– In theory, people can apply to the court, but they can not be included in the list of entities that initiate consideration of cases in this institution.

– It means that I can apply, but they can ask me to get off?…

– They can. It happened many times.

– It seems that the current government is not ready and is not able to change the situation of human rights…

– The system is designed that way, so that it will take all of this as a kind of its own defeat and destabilization of the situation. On the contrary, now everything goes to the fact that all is concentrated in the same hands. There is an absolute control over society and the action of special services, the prison system is closed. There is no public control. We, human rights activists, can not visit places of detention of citizens. We do not know how our special services do, how they work. And this closed system generates even greater permissiveness. It is very difficult to get the truth. We tried many times to bring proceedings on these facts, but in vain – everything is closed.

– What is the state’s attitude towards human rights organizations?

– The state’s attitude, I would say, is negative: it does not consider us as partners. Although it occasionally has a need to demonstrate contacts, when, for example, there is a review of human rights situation in the country.

– Is there a need for human rights organizations in European countries, many of which have more than one century’s experience of democracy?

– Of course, there is. For example, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), which the “Viasna” is member of, a long time had no department of Western Europe. And this year this department was created because there are problems of various kinds there. There is only one difference: in these countries, the system itself is primarily judicial – independent, there are institutions where people can protect themselves at the national level.

And there are countries where it is impossible to protect yourself, where the human rights situation is catastrophic.

In Europe there are various problems: abuse of security services and the problem of relation of anti-terrorism legislation and human rights. In the United States it has become even more urgent. Then, there are problems of discrimination, including national, racial and immigration. There are a lot of problems, and human rights activists are dealing with it…

– So, they always have some work to do.

– They do, they criticize their government. Personally, I believe that human rights defenders should always be focused on a critical dialogue with the authorities. That is, they need to communicate with the authorities if they are treated as partner organizations, but they should always be critical. Government makes very different mistakes.

– The chairman of “Viasna” Ales Bialiatski in the colony now. When the head of the human rights organization is behind the bars, it is the main feature of the state of human rights in the country…

– Really, it’s a multi-year assessment of “Viasna” activities. Bialiatski is behind the bars for received funding from foreign funds, which were managed by “Viasna” within its projects in the field of human rights. That basically is a part of freedom of association, since according to the declaration of human rights defenders we have the right to be financed both domestically and abroad.

Bialiatski’s case also contradicts national legislation: the need and the obligation to pay taxes arise only in the case of income. And the court’s position from the beginning was based on the fact that the money was Bialiatski’s profit. Although we have presented the documents from the respective funds that it was not true.

– This means that the court at least had to prove that Bialiatski spend the money for his own needs…

– It had to, but … Funds received under the agreement with the third parties that are not subject to taxation in accordance with our Code of taxation. This was the case, when the burden of proof the contrary was lying on the court but not on Bialiatski. The Court had to prove it, but it didn’t. 10 people were interrogated in court and they stated that Bialiatski gave them money for human rights actions. They refused to answer the question “what exact actions”, referring to the Constitution, but they confirmed it in court.

Specially for www.sn-plus.com from Hanna Krasulina

Prepared by Ales LETA
Belarusian Legal Portal

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