Thank you, Mr President.
Mr Special Rapporteur Haraszti,
We warmly welcome your recent report and the recommendations. We would like to thank you for your work under difficult circumstances. We reiterate our call for the Belarusian authorities to engage constructively with you. The UK will continue to support your work to highlight human rights issues in Belarus.
Mr Haraszti,the human rights situation in Belarus remains a cause of concern. Your report highlights that, except for the release of political prisoners on the eve of the 2015 presidential election, little progress has been made to improve the human rights environment in Belarus. However, the UK welcomes the fact that the first meeting of the EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue took place in Minsk 6-7 June, and that a Consultative Group has been established to develop a National Action Plan on Human Rights, which had its first meeting on 30 May.
The UK is concerned about the restrictions placed on the rights to freedom of expression and of association, particularly the freedom of the media which remains severely limited. Freedom of expression will play an important role in the parliamentary elections to be held in September 2016.
The UK notes that Belarus has taken steps towards dialogue and cooperation with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE. However, it is regrettable that recommendations made by OSCE/ODHIR in its reports on the previous parliamentary elections in 2012 and the presidential election in 2015 have not been fully implemented by the Belarusian authorities. The UK recalls Belarus’ own stated willingness to engage with the international community and urges the Belarusian authorities to engage fully and constructively with OSCE.
Belarus is the only country in Europe still applying the death penalty. It is the longstanding policy of the UK to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. The UK calls on the Government of Belarus to establish an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty, as a first step towards abolition.
Mr Haraszti, the UK will continue to support the work of human rights organisations within Belarus and looks forward to working with you in this important area. In that regard, what steps can states most helpfully prioritise to support the work of human rights organisations in Belarus going forward?