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The situation in Belarus

Doc. 14333: collection of written amendments | Doc. 14333 | 26/06/2017 | Final version

Caption: AdoptedRejectedWithdrawnNo electronic votes

ADraft Resolution

1Over the past five years, since the adoption of Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1857 (2012) and Recommendation 1992 (2012) on the situation in Belarus, the authorities of Belarus have engaged in greater international openness and dialogue, including with the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations. This, for instance, allowed our Assembly to observe the last presidential and parliamentary elections in October 2015 and September 2016 respectively.
2The Assembly deeply regrets that this positive trend has been undermined by the recent escalation of mass violence and harassment against peaceful protesters in February and March 2017. It deplores, in particular, the use of administrative detention and harassment to intimidate political opponents, journalists, human rights defenders and ordinary people for exercising their right to peaceful protest, and urges the Belarusian authorities to:
2.1immediately release opposition activists still detained and investigate allegations of ill-treatment and intimidation against them;
2.2continue dialogue with the international community and move towards greater engagement with independent civil society organisations and the political opposition.
3Taking note of the final report of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights on the 2015 presidential and 2016 parliamentary elections, the Assembly welcomes specific improvements and an improved climate surrounding both elections; however, it regrets that a number of long-standing shortcomings remain, including restrictions on political rights and fundamental freedoms as well as procedural irregularities and lack of transparency.
4The Assembly welcomes a number of positive developments, including the release of all political prisoners and the presence of two independent members in parliament, and urges the authorities to rehabilitate former political prisoners, fully restore their civil and political rights, including the expunging of any criminal record and limitations on their participation in political life and in elections, and ensure that there is no setback on this critical issue.

In the draft resolution, paragraph 4, after the words "independent members of parliament,", insert the following words: "and the adoption by the government of the first National Human Rights Action Plan in Belarus for 2016-2020 in December 2016 and the registration of the Belarusian civil society movement "Tell the Truth",".

5Nevertheless, the Assembly regrets the lack of political will to address repeated recommendations made by the Assembly and numerous international and regional human rights mechanisms to bring legislation into line with international standards in the field of democracy, rule of law and human rights. It therefore calls on the Government of Belarus to:
5.1ensure respect for freedom of association and peaceful assembly, in particular by:
5.1.1effectively guaranteeing the rights of citizens to peaceful assembly and expression and refraining from using violence and intimidation against demonstrators and human rights defenders;
5.1.2revising article 193.1 of the Criminal Code, which currently criminalises participation in unauthorised associations and public events, by introducing a notification-based registration system;
5.1.3removing undue practical and legal obstacles to the registration of political parties and independent civil society and human rights organisations, and introducing the possibility for them to have their legal premises in residential buildings;
5.2ensure respect for freedom of expression and of the media, in particular by:
5.2.1putting an end to the practice of harassment and administrative prosecution of independent media, including online-based outlets and freelance journalists working with foreign media;
5.2.2enabling freedom of the press, including journalists’ right to obtain and impart information without any interference, and investigating all violations of journalists’ rights which unlawfully restrict media freedom;
5.2.3reforming the legal framework to avoid all forms of discrimination against non-State dependent press, in particular freelance and online journalists;
5.3ensure genuine political pluralism and free and fair elections, in particular by:
5.3.1resuming work on a comprehensive electoral reform and swiftly implementing the recommendations made by the OSCE election observation mission, also in co-operation with the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), of which Belarus is an observer member, in time for the municipal elections of February 2018;
5.3.2including substantial procedural safeguards that ensure the integrity and transparency of all stages of the electoral process, and ensuring a politically balanced membership of election commissions;
5.3.3promoting a truly competitive political system and allowing unrestricted political activities and registration of political parties, especially during the electoral campaign;
5.3.4consider inviting the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to observe the forthcoming municipal elections;
5.4show genuine political will on the issue of the death penalty and the administration of justice, in particular by:
5.4.1not carrying out the death sentences recently pronounced against Kiryl Kazachok and Siarhei Vostrykau;
5.4.2rapidly introducing a de jure moratorium on the death penalty and executions, with a view to its abolition;
5.4.3encouraging public dialogue in society on the death penalty, also through public campaigns, television debates and parliamentary hearings, in co-operation with the Council of Europe;
5.4.4including representatives of the opposition, independent civil society and human rights defenders in the work of the parliamentary working group on the death penalty and setting up a clear timetable of meetings;
5.4.5reforming the judicial system to guarantee its complete independence and guaranteeing the right to fair court proceedings, the presumption of innocence and protection mechanisms to prevent confessions being made under torture;
5.4.6expressing interest in acceding to the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ETS No. 126);
5.4.7in line with Resolution 1371 (2004) on disappeared persons in Belarus, bringing to trial the perpetrators as well as the instigators and organisers of the disappearances of Yuri Zakharenko, Victor Gonchar, Anatoly Krasovski and Dmitri Zavadski;
5.5implement recommendations issued by United Nations bodies.

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 5.5, insert the following paragraph:

"suspend the construction of the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) because of numerous violations, the lack of respect for international standards for nuclear safety and serious safety violations and major incidents during the construction of Astravets NPP. The worst violation in the development of Astravets NPP was the selection of an unsustainable site for its construction. The consequences of the construction of Astravets NPP would be a devasting impact on the health and safety of most of Europe and its people. Concerns have been raised since 2009 in all competent international organisations including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Nuclear Safety and Espoo Conventions, Aarhus and Helsinki Water Conventions, organisations of the European Union and the European Nuclear Safety Organisation (WENRA, ENSREG), the United Nations and other organisations."

6The Assembly also calls on the European Union to:
6.1take the above-mentioned recommendations into account in the framework of the European Union–Belarus Human Rights Dialogue;
6.2make support for Belarus conditional on political reforms in the field of democracy, human rights and the rule of law;
6.3strengthen support for independent civil society organisations and media;
6.4intensify co-operation in the framework of the European Union–Belarus Coordination Group, with the participation of experts and non-governmental organisations;
6.5depending on progress in the dialogue between Belarus and the European Union on the respect for democratic values, consider the possibility of lifting all remaining sanctions against Belarus, move forward on visa liberalisation, and promote stronger relations with the World Trade Organization, including a possible accession of Belarus.

26 June 2017

Tabled by Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS, Mr Algirdas BUTKEVIČIUS, Mr Eerik-Niiles KROSS, Lord Donald ANDERSON, Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS

Votes: 19 in favor 36 against 9 abstentions

In the draft resolution, replace paragraph 6.5 with the following paragraph:

"ensure swift conclusion of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements;".

26 June 2017

Tabled by Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS, Mr Algirdas BUTKEVIČIUS, Mr Eerik-Niiles KROSS, Lord Donald ANDERSON, Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS

Votes: 14 in favor 40 against 9 abstentions

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 6.5, insert the following paragraph:

"depending on tangible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, rule of law and human rights as well as to investigate disappearances of two opposition politicians, one businessman and one journalist in 1999 and 2000, consider the possibility of lifting remaining sanctions against Belarus."

7For its part, the Assembly resolves to:
7.1engage both with the authorities and with independent civil society to promote stronger relations with Belarusian society as a whole, on the basis of Council of Europe values and democratic standards;
7.2continue its activities and maintain high-level contacts with the Belarusian authorities;
7.3invite the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy to consider stepping up dialogue with the Parliament and independent civil society of Belarus by inviting members of parliament from the majority and of the opposition, as well as representatives of independent civil society and of opposition political forces not represented in parliament, to attend its meetings during the Assembly part-sessions over the next two years.
8The Assembly regrets that, in the absence of a moratorium on the death penalty and of substantial, tangible and verifiable progress in terms of respect for the democratic values and principles upheld by the Council of Europe, it is not in a position to call on its Bureau to lift the suspension of the special guest status for the Parliament of Belarus.

BDraft Recommendation

1Referring to its Resolution … (2017) on the situation in Belarus, the Parliamentary Assembly, while welcoming greater international openness by the Belarusian authorities, stresses the need to address a number of serious human rights concerns in order to make progress towards the attainment of Council of Europe standards.
2The Assembly deeply regrets that the positive trend over recent years has been undermined by the recent escalation of mass violence and harassment against peaceful protesters in February and March 2017 and calls on the Committee of Ministers to join the Assembly in:
2.1regretting the use of administrative detention and harassment to intimidate political opponents, journalists, human rights defenders and ordinary people exercising their right to peaceful protest;
2.2urging the Belarusian authorities to:
2.2.1immediately release opposition activists still detained and investigate allegations of ill-treatment and intimidation against them;
2.2.2continue dialogue with the international community and move towards greater engagement with independent civil society organisations and the political opposition.
3The Assembly also invites the Committee of Ministers to:
3.1remain open to the accession of Belarus to Council of Europe instruments open to non-member States for which Belarus has made a formal request and help it to bring its legislation into line with Council of Europe standards;
3.2continue engaging with the Belarusian authorities with a view to implementing the Council of Europe Action Plan for Belarus, paying special attention to the issue of the death penalty;
3.3encourage the authorities, non-governmental organisations and independent civil society representatives to take an active role in the implementation of the Action Plan;
3.4encourage its intergovernmental committees to organise meetings, seminars and conferences in Belarus;
3.5consider setting up a Council of Europe office in Minsk in the near future, with a view to enhancing the impact of its activities in the country.