Belarus can be excluded from the OSCE
7:58, — Politics
Such a drastic measure was taken only once towards Yugoslavia during the outburst of the military and humanitarian crisis.
On September 26 at the main annual OSCE’s conference in human rights in Warsaw, which is called the Meeting on human scale, a briefing of the International Human Rights in Belarus Committee was held. The briefing was called “Systemic crisis in the human rights in Belarus: a challenge to the international community”.
Opening the briefing the director of the Helsinki Human Rights Foundation (Warsaw) Danuta Pszewara reminded that the Committee was created in the first days after the brutal crackdown on the demonstration in Minsk on 19 December 2010 and today includes more than 30 organizations from the OSCE countries. This is the first in history broad coalition of non-governmental organizations working on human rights in one particular country. During that period the Committee and its different bodies have been carrying out local monitoring, publishing monitoring and analytical reports, supporting Belarusian NGOs, actively cooperating with international organizations and governments of many countries, giving them recommendations as to their policy towards the situation in Belarus.
A Committee representative, the president of the Democracy and Human Rights Development Center (Moscow), Yuri Dzhibladze made his speech on the issue of what OSCE can and must do due to the deepening crisis in human rights in Belarus. He reminded that four months after the dramatic post-election events of 2010, having in the background the political trials of the spring 2011 in Minsk, fourteen OSCE member countries decided to initiate the Moscow OSCE mechanism procedure towards Belarus. This is a quite rarely used mechanism of investigation of serious human rights violations in one of the OSCE members and publication of a report afterwards. Despite the refusal of the Belarusian authorities to cooperate with the special reporter of the Moscow mechanism, a Sorbona professor Emmanuel Decaux, he undertook a thorough investigation and prepared a brilliant report with clear and detailed recommendations on how to bring the situation in Belarus back to the legal realm, stop the repressions, carry out an objective investigation of human rights violations and held responsible the ones guilty of those. The report was delivered at the OSCE Permanent Council´s session in June 2011.
Since the report was delivered in the framework of the Moscow mechanism 15 months have passed. According to Yuri Dzhibladze, the situation with human rights and the rule of law in Belarus has kept deteriorating all that time despite numerous critical resolutions of the OSCE, UN, Council of Europe, EU´s bodies and national governments.
¨Politically motivated persecution of civic and political activists wouldn’t stop, neither would beatings and detentions of protest actions’ participants, searches in the offices and private apartments of human rights activists and journalists, criminal persecution of journalists, disbarments of lawyers. The impunity of the ones guilty of human rights violations is absolute. Last year saw passing a number of repressive laws. The leading Belarusian human rights activist, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ales Bialiatski is still in prison sentenced a year ago on an unfair and politically motivated trial as well as one and a half dozen other political prisoners. They are all subjects of cruel and inhuman treatment on the verge of tortures. So-called parliamentary elections that just happened, which didn’t correspond even to minimal international standards for free and fair elections, were another milestone on the way to the dictatorship consolidation. We are dealing with a systemic and deepening human rights crisis in the country, - Dzhibladze said. – Belarusian authorities keep openly ignoring their main international obligations in human rights – in the spheres of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of movement, protection from torture, the right for a fair trial and free vote. Systematic refusal of Belarus to cooperate with human rights bodies of the UN and OSCE, including the refusal to let the reporter of the Moscow mechanism and the Belarus working group members of the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly in the country, refusal to follow the recommendations of the Moscow mechanism report and proscription of the OSCE’s office from Minsk in the late 2010 all represent a challenge to the OSCE and the whole international community. The official Minsk’s actions can be characterized as violation of two principles of the Helsinki Final Act for implementation of which the OSCE was created: the principle VII (Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief) and the principle X (Fulfillment in good faith of obligations under international law)”.
In the International Controls Committee’s opinion, the OSCE countries must not see the situation with the Belarusian authorities as a normal state of events. All that has been happening in the framework of the OSCE on Belarus in the last months is periodic statements of some participant countries which expressed their concern over another beating, arrest or prison sentence. The attention focus is slowly shifting away from Belarus. The OSCE’s inability to undertake effective actions in cases of serious and systematic human rights violations in one of the participant countries undermines the organization’s authority and lets other countries violate human rights with impunity and don’t fulfill their commitments in the framework of the OSCE, Yuri Dzhibladze stated.
The International Control Committee believes that the sates, worried about the growing human rights crisis in Belarus, should activate their actions. Yuri Dzhibladze suggested for the countries, which initiated the OSCE’s Moscow mechanism towards Belarus, and other democratic countries to form a working group on the situation in Belarus as soon as possible and appoint their special reporter. The working group’s mandate could include the human rights violations monitoring, assessment of the country’s fulfillment of its OSCE obligations, development of recommendation on improving the situation, regular reporting to the Permanent Council and cooperation with the special reporters on Belarus in the UN Council and the PACE.
Yuri Dzhibladze pointed out that the OSCE hasn’t had precedents of creating such instruments so far in the human scale dimension. However they were created in two other OSCE dimensions – of military and ecological safety and nothing creates problems of developing such a precedent in the sphere of human dimension. It doesn’t require a consensual decision – it is clear that in such a case the decision would have been blocked by Belarus itself, Russia and some other of their allies from the post-soviet area. All what is needed is political will and responsible attitude of several democratic states.
We realize, Dzhibladze noted, that creation of such a mechanism wouldn’t led to immediate changes in the situation in Belarus, but would allow achieving the following goals:
- ensure the constant OSCE’s attention to the situation in Belarus, which is particularly important considering the absence of an OSCE office in Minsk and the fact that, after the country’s exclusion from the Council of Europe, the OSCE is the only regional human rights organization which Belarus is still the member of;
- show the Belarusian authorities and the ones of other counties that the democratic nations community will not tolerate spreading of authoritarian practices and serious human rights violations in the OSCE region;
- provide an important support to the Belarusian civil society sending a signal that the democratic countries are not leaving it to the mercy of the dictatorship and will be taking systematic steps on the international organization level.
The chief of the International Observation Mission of the Committee Andrei Yurau suggested considering a further prospect: what would happen if Belarusian authorities keep ignoring these new OSCE mechanisms in case of their introduction? Such a possibility is totally predictable. In this case, Yurau suggested, it would be necessary to raise the question of temporarily depriving the official Belarusian delegation of the right to take the floor in the OSCE Permanent Council’s sessions and sessions on the human rights dimension, saving the full participation right for Belarusian civil society representatives at the same time. If the human rights situation doesn’t change in the time allocated, the OSCE wouldn’t have a choice but to talk raise the question of Belarus’ exclusion from the organization.
That is a drastic and complicated measure, which was taken only once towards Yugoslavia during the outburst of the military and humanitarian crisis in the Balkans in 1990s, could appear a single opportunity to save the OSCE’s reputation, show its ability to react coherently to a systemic human rights crisis in one of the participant countries and show the intolerance towards authoritarian regime. Systemic challenges to the international community can call for extraordinary measures, the human rights activist stated.
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