Adrian Severin is eloquent and at the same time - unlike many of his colleagues – able to hear the questions and give short, precise answers. He seems to be a passionate truth-seeker; this in the past caused heavy criticism of his reports both by the Belarusian authorities and the opposition. From his point of view, this fact testifies the impartiality of his work, and simply adds to his enthusiasm.

- Mr. Severin, you have been dealing with Belarus since 1995. Are you not tired of the country?


- One can’t get tired if he/she cares about human rights and political freedoms. And I sympathise with Belarus.


- Is there still reason for sympathy?


- I can’t say that last year brought about any dramatic change, by all means. In the course of last months Minsk showed its will to engage in some kind of dialogue and cooperation with the EU. Rental agreements of NGOs were renewed and they will be able to continue their work; opposition enjoyed broader freedom. But these are unfortunately no signals of a breakthrough. It is just a less irreverent trend; we can’t speak of any real change.


- Could you say you understand the Belarusians?


- I would still say I sympathise with them. To use the word understand could be misleading as it implies the acceptance of the situation in the country, in particular with human rights. Many Belarusians don’t care, don’t actively defend their rights.


But I can say I am well-informed and understand a lot of what’s going on. Probably that’s why I am not tired and I am not going to give up, although there are plenty of reasons to get frustrated.

First of all, I have hoped to establish a dialogue with the Belarusian authorities to improve human rights record of the country. But it is still not the case. I also have the expectancy that international community will mobilise its assets, will unify its voice to determine a positive change; and I still hope that Belarusian neighbours will speak in one voice for a democratic change in the country. I also don’t lose a hope that Belarusian democratic forces will stay united and work effectively. The frustration comes as many of these hopes can’t turn into reality.


- The Belarusian authorities are not eager to cooperate. As an appointed Rappotreur you have never been granted a visa to come to Belarus. You use the official information as well as sources from the opposition for your reports. Are these sources not too different to be used? How do you know which ones to trust?


- It is not only the data provided by the opposition, civil society and state. There are third sources like international NGOs. Moreover, I always check, double-check and cross-check, trying to analyse facts and context.

Eventually, was the situation perfect, the Belarusian authorities would talk to me to prove me wrong. The reactions to my report during the discussion at the UN Council of Human Rights on June 12 in Geneva varied. Some agreed, some didn’t. Criticising the report, the Belarusian ambassador to UN (Sergei Aleinik, Belarus Headlines) didn’t even take a second to address its substance. The only specific he mentioned was that it contradicts the reports of other UN agencies that supposedly praise the state of human rights in Belarus. But he could neither give one single example nor quote any. Thus, I am not inclined to trust the figures of those who speak on behalf of the state.


- What is the fate of your reports?


- As my mandate has been prolonged every year since 2004 that shows that the reports were accepted by the UN Commission, which is now UN Council for Human Rights. There is no clear procedure to adopt it, presentation of a report ends with a debate. And the follow-up is extremely modest, the international community is not mobilised. It is probably Brussels where Belarus actually is on the agenda.

I should also warn that cancellation of the position of a Rapporteur on Belarus will affect the prospect of change.


- The Belarusian authorities would like to benefit fully from economical cooperation with Europe but without interference with internal affairs of the country. Could you imagine such a situation?


- Of course! But with the only reservation - human rights are not an internal but international matter as they are the question of sovereignty of an individual, not that of a state. Under the pretext of sovereignty the Soviet Union felt free to oppress civic rights and freedoms. Any state should be able to maintain its internal vision of its internal processes but human rights is, again, no internal affair.

And I hope that eventually people of Belarus will learn to value and defend their rights and authorities--to respect these rights.

Changes in Belarus should emerge from inside. And this will be the case of long time to go.



Adrian Severin has been appointed a Special Rapporteur on Belarus in 2004. Member of the European Parliament.


He was born in 1954, Bucharest, Romania. Was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Romania, member and Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of OSCE. Was the head of the Ad-hoc Committee of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly for Belarus (1995-1999). Author or co-author of several books on international commercial law, economic and political reform, international relations, etc. Won international and national awards. Speaks English, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish.


Interview conducted by Maryna Rakhlei