Republic of Belarus
Joined United Nations: 24 October 1945
Human Rights as assured by their constitution
Updated 01 March 2013
9,643,566 (July 2012 est.)
First Deputy Prime Minister
since 19 December 2003
President elected by popular vote for a five-year term; first election
took place on 23 June and 10 July 1994; according to the 1994
constitution, the next election should have been held in 1999,
however, Aleksandr LUKASHENKO extended his term to 2001
via a November 1996 referendum; subsequent election held on 9
September 2001; an October 2004 referendum ended presidential
term limits and allowed the president to run in a third (19 March
2006) and fourth election (19 December 2010)
Next scheduled election: 2015
HEAD OF GOVERNMENT
Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers appointed by the
|DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Belarusian 83.7%, Russian 8.3%, Polish 3.1%, Ukrainian 1.7%, other 3.2% (2009 census)
Eastern Orthodox 80%, other (including Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim) 20% (1997 est.)
Republic in name, although in fact a dictatorship, with 6 provinces (voblastsi, singular - voblasts') and 1 municipality (horad); Legal
system is based on civil law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Executive: President elected by popular vote for a five-year term; first election took place on 23 June and 10 July 1994; according
to the 1994 constitution, the next election should have been held in 1999, however, Aleksandr LUKASHENKO extended his term
to 2001 via a November 1996 referendum; subsequent election held on 9 September 2001; an October 2004 referendum ended
presidential term limits and allowed the president to run in a third (19 March 2006) and fourth election (19 December 2010); prime
minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president
Legislative: Palata Predstaviteley - last held on 23 September 2012 (next to be held September 2016); OSCE observers
determined that the election was neither free nor impartial and that vote counting was problematic in a number of polling stations;
pro-LUKASHENKO candidates won every seat with no opposition representation in the chamber; international observers
determined that the previous election, on 28 September 2008, despite minor improvements also fell short of democratic standards,
with pro-LUKASHENKO candidates winning every seat
Judicial: Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president); Constitutional Court (half of the judges appointed by the
president and half appointed by the Chamber of Representatives)
Belarusian (official) 23.4%, Russian (official) 70.2%, other 6.4% (includes small Polish- and Ukrainian-speaking minorities) (1999
Prehistoric human habitation is, at present, a point of speculation as no archeological evidence has yet to be unearthed but it is
commonly accepted that there may have been late neolithic immigration. The history of Belarus, or, more correctly of the Belarusian
ethnicity, begins with the migration and expansion of the Slavic peoples throughout Eastern Europe between the 6th and 8th
centuries. East Slavs settled on the territory within present-day Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, assimilating local Baltic —
(Yotvingians, Dnepr Balts), Ugro-Finnic (Russia) and steppe nomads (Ukraine) already living there, early ethnic integrations that
contributed to the gradual differentiation of the three East Slavic nations. These East Slavs were pagan, animistic, agrarian people
whose economy included trade in agricultural produce, game, furs, honey, beeswax and amber. The modern Belarusian ethnos was
probably formed on the basis of the three Slavic tribes — Kryvians, Drehovians, Radzimians as well as several Baltic tribes. During
the 9th and 10th centuries, Scandinavian Vikings established trade posts on the way from Scandinavia to the Byzantine Empire. The
network of lakes and rivers crossing East Slav territory provided a lucrative trade route between the two civilizations. The Rus'
rulers invaded the Byzantine Empire on few occasions, but eventually they allied against the Bulgars. The condition underlying this
alliance was to open the country for Christianization and acculturation from the Byzantine Empire. Between the 9th and 12th
centuries, the Principality of Polotsk (northern Belarus) emerged as the dominant center of power on Belarusian territory, with a
lesser role played by the principality of Turaŭ in the south. In the 13th century, the fragile unity of Kievan Rus' disintegrated due to
nomadic incursions from Asia, which climaxed with the Mongol Blue Horde's sacking of Kiev (1240), leaving a geopolitical vacuum
in the region. The East Slavs splintered into a number of independent and competing principalities. Due to military conquest and
dynastic marriages the Belarusian principalities were acquired by the expanding Lithuania, beginning with the rule of Lithuanian King
Mindaugas (1240–63). From the 13th to 15th century, Baltic, Belarusian and Ukrainian lands were consolidated into the Grand
Duchy of Lithuania, with its initial capital unknown, but presumably that could have been either Trakai, Kernavė, Voruta or Vilnius.
Since the 14th century, Vilnius had been the only official capital of the state. The Lithuanians' smaller numbers and lack of their own
written language in this medieval state gave Ruthenians (present-day Belarusians and Ukrainians) very important role in shaping
Lithuanian political, religious and cultural life, and further assimilation between the Slavs and Balts occurred. In 1511, King and
Grand Duke Sigismund I the Old granted the Orthodox clergy with autonomy enjoyed previously only by Catholic clergy. The
Lublin Union of 1569 constituted the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as an influential player in European politics and the largest
multinational state in Europe. While Ukraine and Podlachia became subject to the Polish Crown, present-day Belarus territory was
still regarded as part of Lithuania. From 1569 the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth suffered a series of Tatar invasions, the goal of
which was to loot, pillage and capture slaves into jasyr. The borderland area to the south-east was in a state of semi-permanent
warfare until the 18th century. Some researchers estimate that altogether more than 3 million people, predominantly Ukrainians but
also Russians, Belarusians and Poles, were captured and enslaved during the time of the Crimean Khanate. The misfortunes were
started in 1648 by Bohdan Chmielnicki, who started a large-scale Cossack uprising in the Ukraine. Although the Cossacks were
defeated in 1651 in the battle of Beresteczko, Khmelnytsky sought help from Russian tsar, and by the Treaty of Pereyaslav Russia
dominated and partially occupied the eastern lands of the Commonwealth since 1655. The Swedes invaded and occupied the rest in
the same year. Subsequent wars in the area (Great Northern War and the War of Polish succession) damaged its economy even
further. In addition, Russian armies raided the Commonwealth under the pretext of the returning of fugitive peasants. By mid-18th
century their presence in the lands of modern Belarus became almost permanent. Eventually by 1795 Poland was partitioned by its
neighbors. Thus a new period in Belarusian history started, with all its lands annexed by the Russian Empire, in a continuing
endeavor of Russian tsars of "gathering the Rus lands" started after the liberation from the Tatar yoke by Grand Duke Ivan III of
Russia. Under Russian administration, the territory of Belarus was divided into the guberniyas of Minsk, Vitebsk, Mogilyov, and
Hrodno. Belarusians were active in the guerrilla movement against Napoleon's occupation and did their best to annihilate the
remains of the Grande Armée when it crossed the Berezina River in November 1812. With Napoleon's defeat, Belarus again
became a part of Imperial Russia and its guberniyas constituted part of the Northwestern Krai. World War I was the short period
when Belarusian culture started to flourish. German administration allowed schools with Belarusian language, previously banned in
Russia; a number of Belarusian schools were created until 1919 when they were banned again by the Polish military administration.
At the end of World War I, when Belarus was still occupied by Germans, according to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the short-lived
Belarus National Republic was pronounced on March 25, 1918, as part of the German Mitteleuropa plan. Within the USSR, the
name of the country was Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. It was declared on January 1, 1919 in Smolensk under the name of
Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia (SSRB). The Polish part of Belarus was subject to Polonization policies (especially in the
1930s), while the Soviet Belarus was one of the original republics which formed the USSR. When the Soviet Union invaded Poland
on September 17, 1939, following the terms of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact's secret protocol, much of what had been eastern
Poland was annexed to the BSSR. Similarly to the times of German occupation during the First World War, Belarusian language
and Soviet culture enjoyed relative prosperity in this short period. The country suffered particularly heavily during the fighting and the
German occupation. Following bloody encirclement battles, all of the present-day Belarus territory was occupied by the Germans
by the end of August 1941. During the World War II the Nazis attempted to establish a puppet Belarusian government, Belarusian
Central Rada, with the symbolics similar to BNR. After the end of War in 1945, Belarus became one of the founding members of
the United Nations Organisation. Joining Belarus was the Soviet Union itself and another republic Ukraine. In exchange for Belarus
and Ukraine joining the UN, the United States had the right to seek two more votes, a right that has never been exercised. On April
26, 1986 the Chernobyl accident occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine situated close to the border with
Belarus. It is regarded as the worst nuclear accident in the history of nuclear power. On 27 July 1990, Belarus declared its national
sovereignty, a key step toward independence from the Soviet Union. The BSSR was formally renamed the Republic of Belarus on
25 August 1991. Around that time, Stanislav Shushkevich became the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus, the top
leadership position in Belarus. On December 8, 1991, Shushkevich met with Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Leonid Kravchuk of
Ukraine, in Belavezhskaya Pushcha, to formally declare the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the formation of the Commonwealth
of Independent States. In 1994, the first presidential elections were held and Alexander Lukashenko was elected president of
Belarus. Under Lukashenko, economic reforms were slowed. The 1996 Belarus Referendum resulted in the amendment of the
constitution that took key powers off the parliament. In 2001, he was re-elected as president in elections described as undemocratic
by Western observers. At the same time the west began criticising him of authoritarianism. In 2006, Lukashenko was once again re-
elected in presidential elections which were again criticised as flawed by most EU countries. In 2010, Lukashenko was re-elected
once again in presidental elections, which were described as flawed by most EU countries and institutions. A peaceful protest
against the electoral fraud was attacked by riot police and by armed men dressed in black. After that, up to 700 opposition
activists, including 7 presidential candidates, were arrested by KGB.
Source: Wikipedia: History of Belarus
As part of the former Soviet Union, Belarus had a relatively well-developed industrial base; it retained this industrial base - which is
now outdated, energy inefficient, and dependent on subsidized Russian energy and preferential access to Russian markets -
following the breakup of the USSR. The country also has a broad agricultural base which is inefficient and dependent on
government subsidies. After an initial burst of capitalist reform from 1991-94, including privatization of state enterprises, creation of
institutions of private property, and development of entrepreneurship, Belarus' economic development greatly slowed. About 80%
of all industry remains in state hands, and foreign investment has been hindered by a climate hostile to business. A few banks, which
had been privatized after independence, were renationalized. State banks account for 75% of the banking sector. Economic output,
which had declined for several years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, revived in the mid-2000s thanks to the boom in oil
prices. Belarus has only small reserves of crude oil, though it imports most of its crude oil and natural gas from Russia at prices
substantially below the world market. Belarus exported refined oil products at market prices produced from Russian crude oil
purchased at a steep discount. In late 2006, Russia began a process of rolling back its subsidies on oil and gas to Belarus. Tensions
over Russian energy reached a peak in 2010, when Russia stopped the export of all subsidized oil to Belarus save for domestic
needs. In December 2010, Russia and Belarus reached a deal to restart the export of discounted oil to Belarus. Little new foreign
investment has occurred in recent years. In 2011, a financial crisis began, triggered by government directed salary hikes
unsupported by commensurate productivity increases. The crisis was compounded by an increased cost in Russian energy inputs
and an overvalued Belarusian ruble, and eventually led to a near three-fold devaluation of the Belarusian ruble in 2011. In
November 2011, Belarus agreed to sell to Russia its remaining shares in Beltransgaz, the Belarusian natural gas pipeline operator, in
exchange for reduced prices for Russian natural gas. Receiving more than half of a $3 billion loan from the Russian-dominated
Eurasian Economic Community Bail-out Fund, a $1 billion loan from the Russian state-owned bank Sberbank, and the $2.5 billion
sale of Beltranzgas to Russian state-owned Gazprom helped stabilize the situation in 2012; nevertheless, the Belarusian currency lost
more than 60% of its value.
Source: CIA World Factbook (select Belarus)
Lukashenko was quoted as saying that he has an "authoritarian ruling style" that he uses to run the country. The Council of Europe
has barred Belarus from membership since 1997 for undemocratic voting irregularities in the November 1996 constitutional
referendum and parliament by-elections. According to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, Belarus's constitution is
"illegal and does not respect minimum democratic standards and thus violates the principles of separation of powers and the rule of
law". The Belarusian government is also criticized for human rights violations and its actions against NGOs, independent journalists,
national minorities and opposition politicians. During the rule of the current administration in Belarus, there have been several cases
of persecution, including the disappearance or death of prominent opposition leaders and independent journalists. Belarus is also
one of just two nations in Europe that retains the death penalty for certain crimes (the other being Albania). In testimony to the U.S.
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice labeled Belarus, among seven nations, as part of the
US's list of outposts of tyranny. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry announced that the statement from Secretary Rice "are a poor
basis" to form a good Belarusian-American alliance.
Belarus has been described as "a small-scale Soviet Union at its finest period".
A presidential election was held in Belarus on 19 December 2010. The election was originally planned for the beginning of 2011.
However, the final date was set during an extraordinary session of the Belarusian National Assembly on September 14, 2010.
Of the ten candidates, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner by the Central Electoral Commission
with 79.67% of the votes, though opposition supporters decried the election. The inauguration ceremony was held on February 19,
On election day, presidential candidate Niakliayeu was seriously beaten by militia on his way to an opposition protest rally in Minsk.
Statkevich was also attacked by "militia" on his way to the opposition protest rally. On the night of the election opposition protesters
tried to storm a principal government building, smashing windows and doors before riot police were able to push them back. Up to
700 opposition activists, including 7 presidential candidates, were arrested in the post election crackdown. Furthermore at least 25
journalists were arrested.
Source: Wikipedia: Politics of Belarus
Boundary demarcated with Latvia and Lithuania in 2006; 1997 boundary delimitation treaty with Ukraine remains unratified over
unresolved financial claims, preventing demarcation and diminishing border security
Limited cultivation of opium poppy and cannabis, mostly for the domestic market; transshipment point for illicit drugs to and via
Russia, and to the Baltics and Western Europe; a small and lightly regulated financial center; anti-money-laundering legislation
does not meet international standards and was weakened further when know-your-customer requirements were curtailed in
2008; few investigations or prosecutions of money-laundering activities (2008)
|HUMAN RIGHTS STATEMENTS, ANALYSIS AND CRITIQUES
|2011 Human Rights Report: Belarus
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
May 25, 2012
Belarus is an authoritarian state. The country’s constitution provides for a directly elected president, who is chief of state, and a
bicameral parliament, the national assembly. A prime minister appointed by the president is the nominal head of government. In practice,
however, power is concentrated in the presidency. Since his election as president in 1994, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has consolidated his
power over all institutions and undermined the rule of law through authoritarian means, including manipulated elections and arbitrary
decrees. Subsequent presidential elections, including the one held in December 2010, were neither free nor fair and fell well short of
meeting international standards. The 2008 parliamentary elections also failed to meet international standards. Security forces reported to
civilian authorities and to Lukashenka in particular.
The most significant human rights problems continued to be the inability of citizens to change their government; a system bereft of
checks and balances in which authorities committed frequent, serious abuses; and the government’s politically motivated imprisonments
of hundreds of people during the year. Additionally, the government failed to account for past politically motivated disappearances.
Other human rights problems included abuses by security forces, which beat detainees and protesters, used excessive force to disperse
peaceful demonstrators, and reportedly used torture and/or maltreatment during investigations and in prisons. Prison conditions remained
extremely poor. Authorities arbitrarily arrested, detained, and imprisoned citizens for criticizing officials, for participating in
demonstrations, and for other political reasons. The judiciary lacked independence, and suffered from inefficiency and political
interference; trial outcomes often were predetermined, and many trials were conducted behind closed doors or in absentia. Authorities
continued to infringe on citizens’ privacy rights. The government further restricted civil liberties, including freedom of speech, press,
assembly, association, religion, and movement. The government seized printed materials from civil society activists and prevented
independent media from disseminating information and materials. The government continued to hinder or prevent the activities of some
religious groups, at times fining them or restricting their services. Authorities harassed human rights groups, nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs), and political parties, refusing to register many and then threatening them with criminal prosecution for operating
without registration. Official corruption in all branches of government remained a problem. Violence and discrimination against women
were problems, as was violence against children. Trafficking in persons remained a significant problem. There was discrimination
against persons with disabilities, Roma, ethnic and sexual minorities, persons with HIV/AIDS, and those who sought to use the
Belarusian language. Authorities harassed and at times dismissed members of independent unions, severely limiting the ability of workers
to form and join independent trade unions and to organize and bargain collectively.
Authorities at all levels operated with impunity, and failed to take steps to prosecute or punish officials in the government or security
forces who committed human rights abuses.
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7 December 2011
Committee against Torture Forty-seventh session
31 October–25 November 2011
Consideration of reports submitted by States parties underarticle 19 of the Convention
Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture
2. While welcoming the submission of the fourth report of Belarus, the Committee regrets that it was submitted nine years late, which
prevented the Committee from conducting an analysis of the implementation of the Convention in the State party following its last review
3.The Committee regrets that no representatives of the State party could come from the capital to meet with the members of the
Committee during the current session; however, it notes with appreciation the opportunity to engage in a constructive dialogue covering
many areas under the Convention.
B. Positive aspects
4.The Committee welcomes the fact that the State party has ratified or acceded to the following international instruments:
(a) Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (3 February 2004); and
(b) Two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (23 January 2002 and 25 January 2006).
5.The Committee notes the ongoing efforts by the State party to reform its legislation, policies and procedures in areas of relevance to
the Convention, including:
C.Principal subjects of concern and recommendations
Fundamental legal safeguards
6. The Committee is seriously concerned about numerous, consistent reports that detainees are frequently denied basic fundamental legal
safeguards, including prompt access to a lawyer and medical doctor and the right to contact family members, and this pertains especially
to those detainees charged under article 293 of the Criminal Code. Such reports include cases raised jointly by several special procedure
mandate holders, including the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and
pertaining to, inter alia, Andrei Sannikov who made an allegation during trial in May 2011 about the denial of his rights to prompt access
to lawyer, to contact family and to medical treatment despite injuries caused by the authorities during arrest, and Vladimir Neklyaev
(A/HRC/17/27/Add.1, para.249). While noting the Act No.215-Z of 16 June 2003 on detention procedure and conditions, the Committee
expresses its serious concern at the State party’s failure in practice to afford all persons deprived of their liberty, including detainees held
in pretrial detention facilities of the State Security Committee (KGB) and under administrative detention, with all fundamental legal
safeguards, as referred to in paragraphs 13 and 14 of the Committee’s general comment No. 2 (2008) on implementation of article 2 by
States parties, from the very outset of detention (arts. 2, 11 and 12).
The Committee recommends the State party to:
(a) Ensure that all detainees are afforded, by law and in practice, all fundamental legal safeguards from the very outset of their detention,
including the rights to prompt access to a lawyer and a medical examination by an independent doctor, to contact family members, to be
informed of their rights at the time of detention, including about the charges laid against them, and to appear before a judge promptly;
(b) Guarantee the access of detained persons, including those under administrative detention, to challenging the legality of their detention
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All Political Prisoners in Belarus Must Be Released and Rehabilitated
Dec 19 2012 - 10:20am
On the second anniversary of the violent government crackdown on peaceful post-election protests in Minsk, Belarus, Freedom House
strongly reiterates its call for the unconditional release and full rehabilitation of all political prisoners.
On the night of December 19, 2010, over 30,000 people gathered on the central square of Minsk anticipating the invalidation of the
presidential election results following a deeply flawed election process. After a campaign season marked by an unprecedented level of
opposition activity, millions of Belarusians dared to hope for a final change from Aleksandr Lukashenka’s uninterrupted 16-year rule.
Despite the peaceful nature of the rally, riot police brutally dispersed the public gathering, detaining over 700 people, including six of the
seven presidential candidates from the opposition.
In the past two years, government pressure on civic and political activity in Belarus increased. Lukashenka’s regime took systematic
steps to silence critics, passing one bizarre piece of legislation after another to curb silent protests and clapping in the streets, imposing
travel bans, threatening independent media, and detaining activists on alleged charges of hooliganism and disorderly conduct. Having
silenced political opponents, Lukashenka shifted to cracking down on those who had been providing assistance to the victims of the
regime. The prominent human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
and President of the Human Rights Center Viasna, was arrested and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison in November 2011 on
trumped-up charges of tax evasion.
“Freedom House calls on the government of Belarus to immediately release and rehabilitate all political prisoners,” said Freedom House
president David J. Kramer. “Twelve political prisoners remain behind bars in Belarus, including six on criminal charges related to the
December 2010 events, and their release is purely the matter of will of a single individual, Lukashenka. By imposing the status of
‘malicious offenders of prison regime’ on political prisoners, penitentiary courts effectively cut off all legal avenues for their release.
This has left them with an unconscionable choice – to make a personal appeal to Lukashenka for pardon thus admitting to crimes they
have not committed. ”
“We stand in unity with these brave individuals,” continued Kramer. “Despite the incessant attempts of the Belarusian authorities to break
their will even after sentencing, these activists have remained resilient, demonstrating unwavering belief in human rights and fundamental
The twelve political prisoners remaining in Belarus are Ihar Alinevich, Mikalai Autukhovich, Ales Bialiatski, Zmitser Dashkevich, Mikalai
Dziadok, Aliaksandr Frantskevich, Eduard Lobau, Vasil Parfiankou, Artsiom Prakapenka, Pavel Seviarynets, Mikalai Statkevich and
For more than a decade, Belarus has been rated Not Free in Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World survey and is among the
“Worst of the Worst” of the world’s most repressive societies, also rated Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2012 and Freedom on the
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17 December 2012
Two years on and the grip tightens on basic freedoms in Belarus
On 19 December 2010, following a presidential poll during which Alyaksandr Lukashenka was elected for a fourth term as President of
Belarus, 30,000 protesters gathered in central Minsk to demand a second round of elections.
The demonstration, the biggest ever witnessed in Belarus, was peaceful until at about 10pm, a group of masked young men, who many
believed to be provocateurs, called on the crowd to storm Government House and started to break windows.
Shortly afterwards, riot police moved in and violently cleared the demonstrators from the square. Many protestors and bystanders were
More than 700 people, most of them peaceful participants and bystanders, were detained.
Most of them were charged with violating the regulations for public gatherings and were sentenced to 10 – 15 days’ imprisonment.
However, six of the seven opposition presidential candidates, many leading journalists and opposition activists were charged with
criminal offences including “organizing mass disorder” and “grossly violating public order” and were sentenced to prison terms of up to
Two years on and six people remain in prisons and labour colonies for their connection to these events, others are still serving suspended
sentences and live under constant surveillance and travel restrictions, and some are now in exile. at the time, called on the crowd to be
peaceful. Shortly after this, riot police moved in and cleared the demonstrators from the Square.
Those who are imprisoned face conditions that amount to torture and other ill-treatment. Andrei Sannikau, who ran as a Presidential
candidate in the elections as candidate of the European Belarus Campaign, was released in April this year on a Presidential pardon.
He described the pressure he was subjected to during his detention as torture.
“They try not to touch you physically, but they put you through extreme conditions,” he reported.
He was held in solitary confinement recorded on 24 hour video. He was also sentenced to periods in the punishment cell, where in one
case the temperature never rose about 8 degrees centigrade and his warm clothing was deliberately removed.
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World Report 2013: Belarus
World Report Chapter - Jan 10 2013
The Belarusian government continues to severely curtail freedoms of association, assembly, and expression, and the right to fair trial.
New restrictive legislative amendments paved the way in 2012 for even more intense governmental scrutiny of civil society organizations
and activists. Governmental harassment of human rights defenders, independent media, and defense lawyers continues, including
through arbitrary bans on foreign travel. At this writing, at least 12 political prisoners remain jailed. Allegations of torture and
mistreatment in custody persist.
Parliamentary elections took place in September against a backdrop of stifled civil and political freedoms, and were marked by a lack of
competitiveness and a low level of public confidence.
The continuing political crackdown impeded a competitive campaign. The elections resulted in 110 members elected for a four-year term
to the lower chamber of the parliament. The opposition did not win any seats.
The elections complied with recent amendments to the electoral code, which the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
(OSCE) and the Venice Commission assessed as a positive but insufficient step towards a legal framework allowing for genuinely
democratic elections. The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly found
elections had fallen short of international standards, noting, in particular, irregularities during the vote count, a flawed process for
considering complaints, and biased campaign coverage by state-controlled media.
Domestic monitors noted flaws in the rules on forming district and precinct election commissions, resulting in a low level of
representation in the commissions by opposition parties. Monitors also documented incidents of intimidation by officials of opposition
Days before the voting, the two registered opposition parties decided to boycott the elections, citing procedural violations, political
repression, and the fact that opposition activists were imprisoned on politically motivated charges and could not run as candidates or
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14 Feb 2012
Belarus to consider establishing institution of ombudsmen soon
MINSK, 13 February (BelTA) – Belarus might consider the establishment of the institution of a human rights commissioner
(ombudsman). This topic was discussed at a meeting between President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and Chairman
of the Constitutional Court Piotr Miklashevich on 13 February, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Belarusian head of state.
The Constitutional Court Chairman explained that an ombudsman could receive people’s complaints related to constitutional rights and
freedoms and submit them to the Constitutional Court.
Piotr Miklashevich noted that the country has already developed a certain mechanism of indirect access of people to constitutional justice
via the government, the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Economic Court
and the President.
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26/02/2013 - 14:13
The Council of Europe: Belarusian Human Rights Defenders Need Support
Belarus is not a member state of the Council of Europe and should not even be considered a candidate until it releases all human rights
defenders and opposition activists imprisoned for political motives, abolishes the death penalty and carries out far-reaching democratic
reforms. This means that Belarus is not currently subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights or country reports
by most monitoring mechanisms and my own office. However, this does not absolve the Council of Europe and its member states from
taking an active interest in Belarus, abstaining from actions that can harm Belarusian human rights defenders, and seeking to support
human rights in the country.
“Do No Harm”
The first principle to remember is “do no harm”. In other words, Council of Europe member states should not cooperate with the
Belarusian authorities in any actions that may jeopardise the integrity and security of Belarusian human rights defenders. Unfortunately,
various actors in Council of Europe member states have not always adhered to this principle. It should be recalled that the arrest,
prosecution, conviction and detention of prominent defender Ales Bialiatski were possible thanks to information provided by Lithuania
and Poland on bank accounts in Bialiatski’s name in these countries. It has also been reported that cooperation with Belarus through
Interpol could imply risks to civil society actors.
Another way in which the outside world can do harm to the cause of human rights is by speaking inconsistently or in many voices with
the Belarusian regime. While some outside powers have called for sanctions, others continue to do a brisk business with Belarus. Clearly,
mixed signals and veering from a values-based approach to one based on Realpolitik permits the authorities in Minsk much room for
manoeuvre and allows them to play various actors against each other, thereby doing a disservice to human rights defenders in Belarus.
Show Solidarity and Give Support
Council of Europe member states should demonstrate solidarity with human rights defenders who are facing difficulties not only by
raising their cases in multilateral and bilateral contexts, but also by providing emergency visas, and if necessary, political asylum, to
defenders and their families in need of protection from threats, intimidation and persecution by the Belarusian authorities. Consideration
should be given to establishing a central contact point to which Belarusians under threat could turn. Logical locations for such a contact
point would be in neighbouring countries.
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Ihar Slucak: Language Must Be Promoted
21 February 2013 / Author: Асамблея НДА /
On the 21st of December within the International Mother Language Day we decided to have a conversation with Ihar Slucak, initiator of
the campaign “Paperwork Management in the Belarusian Language!” Ihar told about the results of the campaign and also expressed his
confidence that the Belarusian language must be promoted both at the national level and by implementation of various interesting projects.
The “Paperwork Management in the Belarusian Language!” initiative was founded in 2009. Activities within the initiative were started
from sending a number of letters to officials at all levels. According to the previous variant of the Law On Citizens’ and Legal Entities’
Appeals answer to the appeal could be made in any language, i.e. everything depended on a wish of a particular official. So the practice
showed that most answers were given in Russian. In the result amendments were made to the Law according to the demands designed
within the campaign. In January, 2012 the Law came into force: according to the current Law answers should be given in the language
“The “Paperwork Management in the Belarusian Language!” campaign is an initiative without the structure or concrete guidance, – says
Ihar Slucak. – People suggest their ideas, they are free to participate at any level. That is why social networks are to a certain extent our
engine of new campaigns and further development”. For example, now the special group in Vkontakte consists of 4500 participants.
“Advertisement pushes the whole activity” – states Ihar Slucak. On summer, 2012 the initiative took the third place in nomination “Civil
Important Projects” at the third festival of advertisements in the Belarusian language AD.NAK!-2012.
“Paper work only is boring, – says Slucak. – That is why we created a football team “SPB-09” and even started to hold tournaments.
The Belarusian language means also sport and sport is patriotism, it unites the Belarusians and our national language is Belarusian. That is
why it is important.” Homiel Football Club is initiated by the campaign and despite the fact that Homiel is considered to be a town where
the Russian language is widely spread activists gained certain success: names of football players, speaker’s commentaries,
announcements at the scoreboard – all done in Belarusian.
The campaign “Paperwork Management in the Belarusian Language!” currently works on lobbying amendments to the Laws which
consolidate status of the Belarusian language. “Currently we want to have changes to the Laws On Languages, On Advertising and to the
Consumer Protection Law done. Language is a mean of communication. Our aim is to make this mean available, – states Ihar. – To
popularize, not to force , and to use it in advertisement, in interesting projects, in sports etc. so that people would not avoid our
Let us remind that the “Paperwork Management in the Belarusian Language!” initiative is a winner of the award “I Love Belraus-2012” in
the nomination “Belarusization”. This year the campaign was included into the list of nominees for the award “Civil Society Champions-
2012” by the Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs.
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President since 20 July 1994
Prime Minister since 28 December 2010