Belarus: Secret Executions, Forced Labor Reports UN Expert

June 18, 2014 – The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday were told of the “systematic character of the serious repression of all human rights in Belarus” by the expert it appointed to investigate the former Soviet state.

Miklos Haraszti told the Geneva-based body that the government in Minsk, headed since 1994 by President Alexander Lukashenko, is the only parliament in Europe without opposition.

It is also the only country in Europe that retains the death penalty and Haraszti had previously reported “as a possible positive development that no executions had reportedly been carried out during the reporting period.”

“However, in April 2014, two new executions were carried out in secret,” he said. “Those facing the death penalty, and their relatives or lawyers are neither informed of the scheduled date of execution nor where the body is buried. In one of the cases, the mother of the executed Pavel Sialiun was not notified of the decision to reject his plea for pardon or the date of execution.”

He also said there was increased repression before and during Belarus’s recent hosting of the World Ice Hockey Championships and that students were forced to work on the construction of the Chizhovka Arena in Minsk. With up to 80 percent of the economy state-planned there is “severe suppression of the right of independent labour unions to organize.”

Haraszti, a Hungarian professor, journalist and human rigths advocate, held out little hope at the end of his presentation to the 47-nation Council that next year’s presidential election would result in an improved human rights situation.

“Chronic restriction of human rights has led to recurrence of violence over the last 15 years, typically at times of elections and the announcement of their preordained outcomes,” he said. “During the recent local elections in March 2014, the right to elect was in practice again denied, as 88 percent of constituencies were uncontested.”

– Denis Fitzgerald 
On Twitter @denisfitz

Obama’s Next Bid for Re-Election – the UN Human Rights Council


Ban Ki-Moon addresses the opening of the Human Rights Council’s current session in Geneva on Sept. 10 (photo credit: UN photo)

Nov. 7, 2012 – Among those running for 18 available seats on the UN Human Rights Council in Monday’s election is the United States, whose newly re-elected president, Barack Obama, decided to embrace the controversial body after his 2008 victory, arguing that Washington could better change and influence from inside than from outside.

Former US president George W. Bush boycotted the Council and its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, but Obama reversed course and the US was elected to a three-year term in 2009.

The 47-nation Council has seen its influence grow in the past two years. With the Security Council deadlocked on taking action on Syria, the Human Rights Council appointed a commission of inquiry that’s investigating and documenting allegations of human rights abuses and possible war crimes in the country over the past 19 months. It also suspended Libya’s membership during Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal crackdown and prevented Damascus from vying for a seat in 2012, as well as blocking Sudan’s bid.

The Council has won praise too from pro-Israel groups – who’ve criticized the body for its disproportionate focus on the Jewish state – for appointing a human rights investigator on Iran in March 2011 and it has also won plaudits from Human Rights Watch for addressing human rights situations in Guinea, Myanmar and North Korea.

The US is one of five countries vying for three seats available in the Western European and Other States category. The other four candidate countries in the group are Germany, Greece, Ireland and Sweden.

The Western group is the only one with a competitive election as the other categories (Asia, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Eastern Europe) are running on a pre-arranged clean slate.

Countries ending their terms this year include China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Each country is elected to a maximum of two consecutive three-year terms.

Among the US allies who will join the Council in 2013 are Japan, South Korea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Estonia.

A list of all candidate countries and the current composition of the Council is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald 

UPDATE Nov 12: US reelected to Council with 131 votes along with Germany, 127, and Ireland, 124 – both serving for first time. Greece, 77, and Sweden, 75, defeated.