U.S. Statement at the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Belarus
Delivered by Ambassador Keith M. Harper
UN Human Rights Council – 29th Session
Geneva – June 23, 2015
Thank you Mr. President.
The United States expresses its appreciation for the continued reporting of the Special Rapporteur and calls on members of this Council to support the renewal of his important mandate. His important work supporting civil society and providing recommendations for electoral reform in Belarus must continue.
We remain gravely concerned about the human rights situation in Belarus. We call on Belarus to grant the Special Rapporteur access to the country immediately and to engage with him on the range of human rights violations and abuses within the country.
The findings in the Special Rapporteur’s report reflect the “systemic denial of human rights” in Belarus. With presidential elections scheduled for November, it is especially concerning that the government continues to restrict the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, deny labor rights, and arrest and detain peaceful political opponents.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) recommended a series of changes to Belarus’ electoral code and practices – the government has not taken the steps necessary to implement these recommendations. In addition, opposition political parties are denied registration, civil society is severely limited, and the few remaining independent media sources face harassment and restriction. When authorities use accreditation regulations to silence, fine or imprison independent journalists, freedom of expression is limited. Belarusian society ultimately suffers.
The United States welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation to repeal the recent provisions of the law on mass media that extend restrictions on freedom of expression to internet-based media. We also welcome the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation to repeal regulations that impede freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.
The United States joins the Special Rapporteur in calling on the authorities to release immediately and unconditionally all those imprisoned for the exercise of their civil and political rights, and to fully respect and protect their rights.
Question: What has the Special Rapporteur observed regarding the government’s preparations for this year’s presidential elections? We would be grateful for the Special Rapporteur’s comments on amendments to the electoral law, registration of opposition parties and political groups, and access of candidates to the media, among other issues.