A United Nations General Assembly committee recently voted 68 to 32 (with 76 abstentions) for a resolution criticizing Belarus' human rights record and calling for an end to politically motivated persecution in the country. The resolution was submitted by the United States, the European Union, Israel, Canada, Switzerland, and Japan.
The document expresses concern "that the situation of human rights in Belarus in 2007 continued to significantly deteriorate" and cites as an examples the "severely flawed" presidential election in March 2006 "due to arbitrary use of state power" and the government's failure to ensure that local elections in January 2007 met international standards, including its use of intimidation and arbitrary registration standards to exclude opposition candidates.
The document also expresses "deep concern" at the government's continued use of criminal prosecution to silence political opponents, human rights defenders, and journalists. It calls on the Belarusian government "to release immediately and unconditionally all individuals detained for politically motivated reasons and other individuals detained for exercising or promoting human rights." The resolution will now move to a vote in the U.N. General Assembly.
More specifically, the draft document implores the government of Belarus to:
(a) To release immediately and unconditionally all individuals detained for politically motivated reasons and other individuals detained for exercising or promoting human rights;
(b) To cease politically motivated prosecution, harassment and intimidation of political opponents, pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders, independent media, national minority activists, religious organizations, educational institutions and civil society actors, and to cease the harassment of students;
(c) To bring the electoral process and legislative framework into line with international standards . . . and to rectify the shortcomings of the electoral process;
(d) To respect the rights to freedom of speech, assembly and association;
(e) To suspend from their duties officials implicated in any case of enforced disappearance, summary execution and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment . . . and, if [they are] found guilty, to ensure that they are punished in accordance with the international human rights obligations of Belarus;
(f) To uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief; [and]
(g) To investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the mistreatment, arbitrary arrest and incarceration of human rights defenders and members of the political opposition [...]
As could be expected, Belarus' U.N. ambassador rejected the draft out of hand, calling it "unfounded" and without legal force. He did not attempt to deny the charges made.
(Sources: reports from Radio Free Europe and JURIST.)