International community concerned over human rights situation

4th round of discussions on human rights in Belarus

On 20th July 2017, the fourth round of the EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue took place in Brussels. According to the European External Action Service, the event allowed for an exchange of views on human rights in Belarus, focusing in particular on freedoms of expression, assembly and association; electoral rights; the death penalty; penitentiary reform; anti-discrimination policy; gender equality and the domestic violence. The Dialogue also focused on developing Belarus' national institutions for protection of human rights and further implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan, which requires more political will from the authorities in Belarus. 

Association

Resolution on the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus

On 5th September 2017, the European People’s Party (EPP) adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Belarus. The signatories of this resolution expressed concern over the ongoing deterioration in human rights protection in Belarus over the last year. The resolution contains examples of serious human rights violations, including of the right to association and freedom of expression. In regards to freedom of association, the document in particular refers to the authorities' refusal to register the “Social-Christian Movement”. 

In July at the 26th session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Belarus' government had promised to respect more recommendations from international partners. However, as of September 2017 not much progress had been made in that regard. The EPP therefore renewed their calls on the  authorities to honor their commitments, especially in relation to dialogue with civil society and the opposition, as well as respect for the right to life by abolishing the death penalty. 

Refusal to register a public association 

The founding meeting of the social-educational public association "Gender Partnership" was held in Minsk in July 2017 and was attended by more than 50 people. However, on 31st August 2017 Belapan reported that the Ministry of Justice of Belarus had refused again to register the organisation, which is affiliated with the opposition United Civil Party. The first attempt at registering the association was made in 2016. 

Peaceful Assembly

Protests against “Zapad-2017”

In September 2017, “Zapad-2017” (West-2017) military exercises took place in Belarus with more than 10,000 Russian soldiers present. In response to the presence of Russian military on the territory of Belarus, on 8th September 2017 an unauthorised rally with 150 to 200 people took place in Minsk. The demonstration, organised by opposition groups, mobilised protesters against the military exercises. 

Demonstrators carried white-red-white tricolors (the Belarusian national flag used in 1991-1995 and symbol of the opposition) and chanted "Long Live Belarus!". The police reportedly did not intervene during the demonstration or detain any participants. However, Belsat reported that after the rally, several members of the opposition served short prison sentences for participating in the anti-Zapad-2017 protest. 

Expression

According to Reporters without Borders, five journalists with Belsat TV were put on trial in August 2017 on charges of violating Article 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Republic of Belarus, namely for the “illegal production and/or distribution of media content”. The five reporters - Stanislau Ivashkevich, Ales Silich, Maryya Artsybashava, Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Syarhey Kavalyou - had been prosecuted earlier in May 2017 for working without press accreditation and fined more than 10,000 EUR. Reporters without Borders called on the government to end "the systematic judicial harassment of independent journalists".