PACE suspends high-level contacts with Belarusian Government and Parliament
On Thursday, 29 April, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) decided to suspend its activities involving high-level contact with the Belarusian Parliament and/or the governmental authorities, having noted a “lack of progress” towards Council of Europe standards and a “lack of political will” on the part of the authorities to adhere to the Organisation’s values.
During a debate held under urgent procedure, in which Alexander Yushkevich, the President of the Standing Committee on Human Rights of the Belarusian Chamber of Representatives, and Anatoly Lebedko, the President of the Civic Union Party, took part, the parliamentarians regretted recent developments in the country, including the executions of Andrei Zhuk and Vasily Yuzepchuk, the situation of the Polish minority and the absence of international observers during the local elections, as well as the authorities’ refusal to permit the establishment of the Council of Europe’s East European School of Political Studies.
The Assembly recalled that it was still prepared to engage in a progressive dialogue with the Belarusian authorities “in response to positive developments”, while reiterating its conviction that “dialogue can be sustained only through Belarus’ continuous progress towards Council of Europe standards”.
The adopted text, which is based on a report by Sinikka Hurskainen (Finland, SOC), recalls the proposal set out last year by PACE to lift the suspension of the Belarusian Parliament’s special guest status provided that a moratorium is decreed on enforcement of the death penalty.
Situation in Belarus: recent developments
Resolution 1727 (2010)1
1. The Parliamentary Assembly recalls its Resolution 1671 (2009) on the situation in Belarus in which, responding to some improvements in the situation in Belarus and with a view to encouraging further progress, it sets out a new course of engagement and openness in its relations with the Belarusian authorities, while continuing to support the strengthening of Belarusian NGOs and civil society.
2. It also recalls its recommendation to ask the Bureau to lift the suspension of special guest status for the Parliament of Belarus provided that a moratorium on the execution of the death penalty was decreed, and reiterates its conviction that “dialogue can be sustained only through Belarus’ continuous progress towards Council of Europe standards”.
3. With these considerations in mind, the Assembly regrets that recent developments in Belarus show lack of progress towards Council of Europe standards and lack of political will on the part of the Belarusian authorities to embrace Council of Europe values and to make progress towards Council of Europe standards.
4. In particular, the Assembly:
4.1. condemns the executions of Andrei Zhuk and Vasily Yuzepchuk, which were carried out, in March 2010, in conditions of total secrecy and at a time when the United Nations Human Rights Committee had requested a stay in the executions pending its examination of their cases;
4.2. expresses concern at the situation of the Polish minority in Belarus, in particular as regards the repeated harassment of members of the Union of the Poles and the infringement of their rights of association and assembly;
4.3. regrets that the Belarusian authorities did not invite any international observer to monitor the April 2010 local elections;
4.4. although welcoming the renewal for an additional year of the agreement on the Council of Europe Infopoint located in the State University of Minsk, regrets that, despite continuous efforts, the Belarusian authorities have not yet authorised the establishment of the Council of Europe East European School of Political Studies in Belarus.
5. The Assembly remains ready to engage in a progressive dialogue with the Belarusian authorities in response to positive developments. It underscores, however, that there cannot be progress on dialogue without progress towards Council of Europe standards and a clear political commitment by the Belarusian authorities to embrace Council of Europe values, proved by consistent actions.
6. In the light of recent events, the Assembly, therefore, decides to put on hold its activities involving high-level contacts between the Assembly and the Belarusian parliament and/or governmental authorities.
7. The Assembly will continue to follow closely developments in Belarus.
1 Assembly debate on 29 April 2010 (16th Sitting) (see Doc. 12223, report of the Political Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mrs Hurskainen, and Doc. 12224, opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteur: Mr Pourgourides). Text adopted by the Assembly on 29 April 2010 (17th Sitting).