6 November the Association Razam.Ch held an Online Briefing regarding the results of the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights in Belarus, which took place on November 2 at the United Nations Office in Geneva. As we reported earlier, the delegations who took the floor have positively assessed the relative progress in the sphere of human rights in the country in 2016-2019 years, however they criticized a cruel and widespread use of violence towards participants of peaceful protests against the rigged presidential elections in August 2020. Every speech ended with recommendations. Belarus received 266 recommendations from 92 countries. While recommendations have no binding effect the government will nevertheless have to announce their decision on each one of them before March 2021. Below we provide a summary of recommendations.
Recommendations related to the events of the past months in Belarus:
The necessity to take immediate measures and prevent all torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment, promptly and impartially investigate all allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and bring those responsible to justice were recommended by Switzerland, Canada, Fiji, Great Britain, Albania, Austria, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovakia, among others.
Lithuania, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, USA, Denmark, Finland, France, New Zealand, Spain, Norway recommended to immediately end brutal repressions against peaceful demonstrators, journalists and human rights activists; Sweden, Albania, Argentina, Belgium, Ecuador, India, Italy, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Great Britain, Romania, Slovenia, Canada, Ukraine, Malta, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Denmark recommended to ensure the right to freedom of speech, assembly and association, as well as ensure these rights for LGBTI people (Iceland).
The recommendation to immediately release all political prisoners and arbitrarily detained and ensure their full rehabilitation was pronounced by Italy, United Kingdom, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Czech Republic, Estonia, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Ukraine, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, USA, Sweden. Canada, Germany among others.
The recommendation to stop blocking access to Internet and web-based resources came from Luxemburg, Great Britain, Austria, Estonia, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway
Portugal, Austria and Mexico spoke about the necessity to amend the Law on mass media, Mexico also mentioned the need to amend the Law for Fighting Extremism, while Poland suggested to bring legislative framework in line with the recommendations of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.
The recommendation to abolish restrictions on the work of journalists and media, including foreign ones, and guarantee favourable conditions for the work of journalists and bloggers came from Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Indonesia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Sweden, among others.
France, Romania and Norway recommended to fulfil the obligations under international human rights treaties concerning free and fair elections , including to comply with all election recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR as indicated in the reports of their observation missions (recommendations from Germany, Romania, Sweden).
Panellists also expressed recommendations to facilitate the rules regulating registration of civil society organizations and political parties (Peru), publicly recognize the role of human rights defenders and ensure their support so that they could carry out their human rights work without harassment and intimidation (Slovakia), and grant, both in law and in practice, total independence of the judiciary (Albania).
The general recommendations related to:
The introduction of a moratorium and the abolition of the death penalty, as mentioned in their recommendations by 37 countries.
Continuation of the efforts undertaken by Belarus to prevent human trafficking (pronounced by Venezuela, Zimbabwe, India, Iran, Iraq, UAE, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Philippines).
A number of countries also recommended to ratify international human rights treaties and conventions, in which Belarus is not yet a party, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (recommended by Honduras, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg), Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, International Convention for the Protection from Enforced Disappearance (recommended by France, Ukraine, Senegal), the Convention the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers (recommended by Indonesia), The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (recommended by Chile, Denmark , Cyprus, Ukraine), the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (Georgia), the Istanbul Convention on domestic violence (Italy), the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (Honduras), the Convention on Cluster Munitions (Malta) and the Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes (Liechtenstein).
A number of countries recommended to accept the visit of theSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus and provide “standing invitation” to all Special Rapporteurs. A spokeswoman for the UK recommended to follow the OSCE Rapporteur’s recommendations within the framework of the Moscow Mechanism.
Malta, Portugal and the Netherlands recommended to include a special provision in the Criminal Code establishing liability for all acts of torture under the Convention against Torture.
A number of countries recommended to adopt a comprehensive legislation prohibiting discrimination in all its forms (Argentina, Iraq, the Netherlands), including discrimination based on race (Angola), sexual orientation and gender (Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Spain). Senegal and Mexico recommended to ensure the social integration of Roma people, including development of programs aimed at increase of school attendance. Afghanistan recommended to take measures for protection of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers from torture and ensure protection of migrant children.
Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka spoke about promotion of rights of vulnerable groups, especially people with disabilities.
The creation of an independent national human rights institution was also mentioned in the speeches of 11 countries including Sudan, Senegal, Malaysia, Burkina Faso, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Philippines.
While Vietnam recommended to take further measures aimed at achieving the sustainable development goals, the Holy See recommended to ensure removal of restrictions on the right to freedom of religion and belief, and the Republic of Fiji emphasized the necessity of reinforcing the legislative framework aimed at addressing cross-sectoral environmental problems including climate change.
The recommendations also regarded adoption of further measures to promote and support the institution of family (Egypt, Iran, Laos and Nicaragua), and develop a national strategy for poverty reduction with particular emphasis on children and families who are in a vulnerable position was recommended by East Timor. Similar recommendations on the need to fight poverty, especially in rural areas and further improve medical services in rural areas, were voiced by Turkey, Iraq, Algeria, and Myanmar.
Cuba recommended to continue strengthening essential health services, particularly for the older persons and other vulnerable groups of population, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Holy See has recommended to improve access to and quality of health care, including psychiatric care for prisoners, as well as increase the number of professional medical staff in all places of detention. Iceland made the recommendation to abolish mandatory testing and HIV transmission criminalization. Myanmar recommended strengthening current measures aimed to prevent youth suicide by strengthening anonymous counselling and hotline services.
The recommendation to establish a national dialogue with civil society came fromJapan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Norway and Romania, among others. The United States recommended engaging in genuine dialogue facilitated by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office with representatives of Belarusian civil society including women leading the protests.
A number of countries have made recommendations on women’s rights, including:
- developing and implementing a new national action plan for gender equality (Burundi),
- taking concrete measures to reduce the gender pay gap (Angola),
- guaranteeing equal access to work to women (Greece),
- combatting negative stereotypes about women in the world of work (Angola),
- promoting equal access to technical and vocational education (India
- taking measures aimed to raise public awareness of gender discrimination in consultation with non-governmental organizations (Burkina Faso, Burundi)
- adopting necessary legal measures and reforms to prevent violence against women, in particular domestic and sexual violence (Ecuador, Fiji, the Philippines, Brazil, Costa Rica , Peru, Portugal, Malaysia, Angola, Croatia, Kuwait).
The children’s rights were addressed by Malaysia, who spoke of the need to develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent all forms of violence against children; Brazil, made the recommendation to make sure poverty and disability are not used as an excuse for depriving children of parental care, reform juvenile justice system to guarantee the respect of children’s rights and the best interests of the child (Germany, Spain), increase the access to education for children with disabilities (Afghanistan, Algeria, Singapore).
A separate place is taken by the recommendations starting with the words “continue”, “make serious efforts”, “consider”, “take further steps to”. China started their speech from “please, continue” saying “Continue to pursue the human rights development path suitable to its national conditions”, North Korea said “Continue implementation of social oriented policies aimed at further improving the well-being of citizens”, the same regards Ethiopia, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Turkey and India, among others. Most likely Belarusian Government will accept these recommendations in the first place.
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