Human rights activists can’t get into Belarus



The Supervisory Council of the Committee for International Monitoring of the Human Rights Situation in Belarus has issued a statement expressing concern over the Belarusian authorities’ attitude to members of its International Observer Mission, including those from Ukraine.

Over the last month and a half, three Ukrainian human rights activists have been refused entry into Belarus. In Ukraine the talk is of blacklists of Ukrainian nationalists banned from visiting Belarus. The authorities of that country deny such accusations.

Mykhailo Kamenyev, Head of the Regional Initiatives Foundations which is a member of the Committee for International Monitoring of the Human Rights Situation in Belarus points out that the summit of OSCE States in Austria at the end of last year stressed that human rights issues were not the internal affair of individual countries, but of concern to all members of the international community.

This was in reaction to the events taking place in Belarus, specifically the ban on human rights activists’ entering the country. “We see these bans as obstructing the activities of the International Observer Mission for Monitoring the Human Rights Situation in Belarus”.

The day before, Ukraine’s Ambassador in Belarus, Roman Bessmertny informed that Minsk is not responding to the note sent by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding people not allowed into the country. He added that since 19 December 2010 there have been several such notes and Kyiv has not received a single answer.  He cannot exclude the possibility that there are such blacklists of Ukrainian nationals not to be admitted into Belarus.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stresses that it is the sovereign right of any country to determine whether to admit any particular person.  Spokesperson Oleh Voloshin, however, adds that they trust that the Belarusian authorities are not creating blacklists merely on political grounds and not connected with infringements of the rules for crossing the bordering and regarding migration policy. “there is a free regime between Ukraine and Belarus on crossing the border and we trust that Ukrainian nationals who have not been accused of infringing the rules on crossing the border, will be allowed into Belarus just as in Ukraine we always welcome Belarusian nationals”.

A spokesperson for the Belarusian State Border Committee says that he doubts that the people refused entry were human rights activities, and asserts that they were not let in because they didn’t have the right documents. (There is no clarification as to what the “right documents” were in this case – translator). The same spokesperson did however add that Poland, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine sometimes refuse people entry.

The Head of the Regional Initiatives Foundation, Mykhailo Kamenyev, says that in the West people are informed in advance if they are persona non grata in a particular country. He points out that in Belarus such lists are secret, and you only find out at the border.

Mykhailo Kamenyev explains that the Supervisory Council is demanding an end to such blacklists and the removal of bans on human rights activists’ entry into Belarus.

Analysts are not, however optimistic of this step being taken.

Abridged from the report by the BBC Ukrainian Service

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