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Statement of PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights: Belarus does not belong on the UN Human Rights Council

1. At its meeting in Paris on 14 May 2007, the Committee, while welcoming that in accordance with Resolution 60/251, members of the new UN Human Rights Council (HRC) shall be elected by the UN General Assembly, upon the proposal of the Assembly’s regional groups, considered that democratic “election” implies a genuine choice.

2. Regretting that all but one of the regional groups pursue the tactic of “clean slates”, presenting only as many candidates as there are seats to be filled, the Committee urged the Presidency of the General Assembly to invite the regions concerned to present additional adequate candidates to ensure an election in line with the letter and spirit of Res. 60/251.

3. The Committee finds that the presentation of Belarus as a candidate for the Human Rights Council – alongside Slovenia from the Eastern European group - is nothing less than scandalous, given Belarus’ dismal human rights record, and having regard to the criteria established by the General Assembly in Resolution 60/251:

 “[…] when electing members of the Council, Member States shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto […]”  and “[…] members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights [and] shall fully cooperate wit the Council […]”.

4. The Lukashenko regime has violated basic human rights for many years. The Assembly has repeatedly condemned undemocratic elections in Belarus (cf. Resolution 1496 (2006)  and Recommendation 1745 (2006) ). It has found that senior representatives of the regime were implicated in the disappearance of senior opposition figures, and/or in the ensuing cover-up (cf. Resolution 1371 (2004)  and Recommendation 1657 (2004) ). It has condemned the oppression of independent media (cf. Resolution 1372 (2004)  and Recommendation 1658 (2004) ). At today’s meeting, the Committee took note of a memorandum prepared by Christos Pourgourides (Cyprus/EPP) presenting a large number of cases in which the criminal justice system is abused to silence the political opposition and human rights defenders. The Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the only remaining registered human rights organisation, and other civil society actors face serious harrassment.

5. The Committee recalls that, in December 2006, the UN General Assembly itself expressed deep concern with Belarus’ human rights record and failure to cooperate with the HRC’s special rapporteur  on the human rights situation in Belarus, Mr. Adrian Severin. 

6. The Committee therefore urges :

-  the UN General Assembly to reject the candidature of Belarus to the HRC ;
- the Chair of the General Assembly and its regional groups to encourage candidatures of  a sufficient number of countries that fulfil the criteria of Resolution 60/251 and, if necessary, to postpone the election currently scheduled for 17 May 2007;

- the Chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, in close coordination with the European Union Presidency, to do their utmost to ensure that Eastern Europe shall be represented on the HRC by two countries that reflect the European continent’s commitment to human rights and democracy.

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