2009 15/04

Image: Belarusian HR defeners in Geneva  Copyright: HRH Network
For citizens of Belarus, a country that is neither an EU member nor represented in the Council of Europe, referring to the UN Human Rights Council is the only way to prove their point of view on the international level. Late March, a group of Belarusian human rights defenders went to Geneva to learn how to do just that.

Tuesday, 07 April 2009
HRH Belarus, based on HRH Network’s information

From 18 to 24 March, Belarusian human rights defenders visited Geneva, where they completed two educational programs; “Reinforcing monitoring networks in Belarus” (the Netherlands Helsinki Committee) and “Bring international standards home” (Human Rights House Foundation).

UPR: states under scrutiny
In addition, the human rights defenders had a chance to observe the 10th plenary session of the Human Rights Committee, where Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) on Serbia, Turkmenistan, Colombia and Uzbekistan were considered. One participant of the Belarusian delegation shared her experience: “We had a great opportunity to see first hand how this or that UN member-state reports on human rights conditions on their soil. It is very interesting that here in 2010 Belarus will be obliged to present its own UPR to the international community or, how it is also called, a national report about human rights conditions.”
Image: HRHF coordinator in Geneva Florian Irminger presenting the UPR process to Belarusian HR defenders Copyright: HRH Network

UPR is a procedure, during which every member-country can express her position on human rights conditions in any other country during an interactive dialogue. A peculiar detail is that information prepared by NGOs is considered here too. According to results of every session a final report is adopted where recommendations on improving human rights conditions are given to every country.

Florian Irminger, left, the Human Rights House Foundation’s coordinator in Geneva, ran a practical training on how NGOs can submit independent reports on human rights to the Committee.

UN mechanism for the people
The Belarusians were especially interested in a meeting with officers of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, who are dealing with individual complaints, included those from Belarusian citizens.

“This meeting was particularly important for me as a human rights defender. Because submitting complaints to the Committee is practically the only opportunity for Belarusian citizens to prove that the state violated their civic or political rights, – said a member of the Belarusian delegation from Homiel Leanid Sudalenka. – I hope that our country will care of her image on the international scene!”Image: Belarusian HR defenders in Geneva Copyright: HRH Network

Lukas Macon, an International Commission of Jurists expert, led a practical lesson on particular individual complaints to the Human Rights Committee from Belarus. Also the Belarusian delegation learnt in details from Krassimir Kanev, a Bulgarian Helsinki Committee expert, about the UN mechanisms on defending human rights.

At the moment there are 64 individual communications from Belarusian citizens registered with the Committee. Eight of them were discontinued and two were unsustainable. The Committee found 16 instances, where Belarus had violated rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The rest are still being considered.

HRH Belarus, based on HRH Network’s information

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