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