September 8 13:00 . Briefing by Belarusian Experts on the Current Situation and Developments in Belarus

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The change in the EU policy has inspired some cosmetic improvements in the situation with human rights in the country. Certain symbolic steps of the Belarusian government towards liberalization during the first year of the dialogue suggested the possibility for further development of Belarusian institutes, legislature and practices in respect of human rights. But at the end of year 2009 and in 2010 the situation of the segment of Belarusian society that could actively participate in the forthcoming election campaign has deteriorated. Seeking to solve present short-term domestic political problems, the Belarusian government was willing to make isolated concessions to the political opposition and civil society to earn EU acclaim in 2009, but failed to demonstrate the political will for genuine pro-democratic reforms in light of the upcoming presidential election of 2010.

One of the aspects which negatively impacts the effectiveness of the flexible EU policy towards Belarus is its inconsistency. Defining EU priorities in its relationship with Belarus, developing a step-by-step roadmap and making the dialogue process more transparent by providing feedback from the side of the EU could positively influence relations with Belarus and improve the image of the Dialogue Period among Belarusian citizens. A broader review of the situation rather than concentrating on symbolic travel restrictions, addressing the repressive apparatus as a whole and demand for accountability of subjective judicial practices could further contribute to the efficiency of the EU policy.

We offer EU officials the following five recommendations to promote more tangible and systematic change towards an open and free society in Belarus:

1. No progress on lifting restrictive measures in place against certain officials of Belarus should be made without significant progress in securing the access to human rights for people of Belarus.

2.The observation of the situation in Belarus with the suspension of travel restrictions should be extended by six months to cover the presidential campaign and the possible repression afterwards.

3. A more comprehensive instrument should be developed for applying restrictive measures, which could include expanding the list of Belarusian officials, continuously violating human rights, to whom restrictive measures apply, and limiting political contacts on the higher level.

4.The EU should produce a comprehensive public progress report on developments in Belarus during the Dialogue Period and an evaluation of its own policies. The review should be based on concrete criteria and include the opportunity for civil society input at all stages of the process.

5. The country’s poor human rights record should be taken into consideration when deciding on financial or material support, economic cooperation, investments and credits to the Belarusian government more substantially. No repressive institutions, such as the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Committee for State Security, the Prosecutor general, local election commissions, and judiciary institutions should receive support, which would enable them to expand their repressive practices.

Read the whole text in pdf (Monitoring Belarus Nov-Sep)

Compiled by the Assembly of Belarusian Prodemocratic NGOs, Belarusian Association of Journalists, Belarusian Helsinki Committee,
Committee for Defense of the Repressed „Salidarnasc”, Human Rights Center “Viasna” in cooperation with the Belarusian Robert Schuman Society and the Belarusian International Implementers (BIIM) group.
BIIM in cooperation with Belarusian NGOs, Human Rights Groups and Independent Journalists