UN Human Rights Committee 137th Session. Belarus Keeps Ignoring Interim Measures
Published on May 23, 2023
On March 24, the 137th session of the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) ended. Belarus was absent from the list of States for consideration at the session, nevertheless, the experts analyzed the fulfillment of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

We remind you that denunciation of the ICCPR Optional Protocol does not affect the obligations of the Republic of Belarus arising from the Covenant per se (since it is an international treaty). The treaty text establishes the obligation to regularly submit reports to the HRC on the measures that the State is taking to implement the rights enshrined in the Covenant.

The Committee considered the fifth periodic report of Belarus in 2018 and adopted concluding observations and recommendations on it, inviting the State to comment on their implementation by 2020. The authorities, however, provided their comments only in July 2021 — so, they were considered at the 137th session of the Committee.

In its concluding observations, the Committee often refers to the information provided by the Belarusian human rights organizations (which proves once again the importance of such interaction with the Committee). In these observations, the HRC paid special attention to 3 issues:

a) the fact that the authorities disregard the considerations and interim measures* that the Committee undertakes in connection to individual complaints about actions or omissions of the Belarusian authorities;

b) expanding the list of crimes for which the death penalty is provided as a sanction, as well as the execution of the latter with violations of the provisions of the Covenant (in particular, the State ignores the ban imposed by the Committee executing individuals before the consideration of their complaint by the HRC, as well as the lack of measures to bring part 5 of Article 175 of the Penal Enforcement Code of the Republic of Belarus in line with the provisions of the Covenant (the authorities do not notify relatives of the execution date, fail to hand over the body and report the place of its burial, which indicates a violation of article 7 of the Covenant));

c) freedom of peaceful assembly, in particular, not only the lack of legislation improvements in line with Belarus' international obligations but the deterioration of the situation since 2018; the lack of effective investigations into numerous facts of excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies and torture in places of incarceration. The Committee asked the State for statistics on investigations of such cases (and their outcomes), as well as information on the number of detentions of peaceful protesters.

Belarus should submit its next periodic report by 2028.

*Interim measure is a request sent by the Committee to the State in order to prevent irreparable harm to an individual whose complaint is under consideration by the Committee. It is usually applied to the execution of a death sentence, deportation to a country where a person is at risk of being subjected to torture or the death penalty.

The decision to apply interim measures shall not be considered as a statement of admissibility of the complaint, as well as of a violation established on the part of the State.

During the 137th session, the members of the Committee also considered the periodic reports of Egypt, Zambia, Panama, Peru, Turkmenistan, and Sri Lanka; framed questions to Namibia, Serbia, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Kazakhstan for subsequent reports.

A brief review of the reports and comments submitted by the above-mentioned States demonstrates numerous problems with the implementation of the Covenant, relevant for Belarus as well, such as absence of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, compliance of legislation regulating the introduction of special measures restricting the rights and freedoms of citizens (for example, during a pandemic) with the provisions of the Covenant, absence of an independent national human rights institution, inconsistency of legislation regulating the powers of law enforcement agencies with the Basic Principles of the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, failure to implement effective investigations into the facts of torture, as well as the lack of access of independent monitoring bodies to places of incarceration, the inconsistency of the procedures for the selection or appointment, promotion, removal from office or dismissal of judges to the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, and so on.

The comments of the Committee members to the report of Turkmenistan once again note the unacceptable tendency (common to our region) to suppress the legitimate rights and freedoms of the population with the help of "anti-terrorist" and "anti-extremist" legislation: despite the lack of information about the initiation of proceedings in Turkmenistan within the reporting period, the HRC insists on the need to narrow the definitions of "extremism" and "terrorism", supplementing them with an element of direct incitement or use of violence, in order to protect (especially vulnerable in case of arbitrary application of such legislation) freedom of religion, association, expression of opinion, deprivation of liberty on an arbitrary basis.

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