Belarus CSOs Present Reports at the UPR Pre-session

On April 8-10, in Geneva, the UPR Pre-session took place to hear NGOs standings before the 2nd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review. BAJ representative Mikhail Yanchuk joined the Belarusian team to speak about freedom of expression issues in Belarus.

Mikhail Yanchuk, photo from Facebook

The pre-session was organized by the NGO UPR-Info with the view to discussing the human rights situation in countries that are due to undergo the UPR procedure in a month. The forum united permanent representatives of the UN member-states, national human rights institutes and civil society organizations. Together with BAJ, Belarus civil society was represented by the human rights center Viasna (Valiantsin Stefanovich) and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (Aleh Hulak).

The official report presented by the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is here. The alternative report presented by CSOs of Belarus in September 2014 can be found here (for issues of freedom of speech see Joint Submission 4). The 2nd cycle of the UPR procedure for Belarus is scheduled on May 4, 2015.

“Absolutely all countries declare their willingness to listen up to the recommendations on legislative improvements suggested by the UN,” says Mikhas Yanchuk. “Such willingness is also declared by the official Minsk, although in reality the things done are far from what has been said. From 100 recommendations of the UN, Belarus fulfilled less than 10. Besides, there have been legislative amendments that led to even harsher restrictions. In particular, these are amendments to the Law on Mass Media adopted in December 2014. There is an increasing practice of holding journalists liable (note – under art. 22.9 – illegal production and distribution of mass media products) for work with foreign mass media without accreditation. And this is only in the sphere of freedom of speech alone.”

Mikhail Yanchuk thinks that the UPR can become an instrument to influence the official Minsk to force it to some concessions in many spheres of public life.

“The Belarusian authorities are interested in keeping contacts with the UN, so I hope they can agree to abandon its positions in a number of issues under pressure of the international community,” he says.