De situatie in Belarus.

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Belarus heeft geen gast status meer in de parlementaire assemblee. Deze status wil het land graag terugkrijgen, maar dan moeten ze wel aan een aantal voorwaarden voldoen. Ik was lid van de ad-hoc commissie die in juni het land bezocht. Zie voor dat verslag, Report to the visit in Minsk. We zagen geen reden de gaststatus terug te geven. Er zijn nog steeds veel verdwijningen in het land, er is geen vrije pers, de mensenrechtensituatie is slecht, het juridisch apparaat functioneert niet.
Kortom, Belarus blijft nog even in de wachtkamer van de parlementaire assemblee.

Hieronder volgt mijn bijdrage aan het plenaire debat.

Situation in Belarus
Presentation by Mr Behrendt of the report of the Political Affairs Committee (Doc.9543); presention by Mr Stankeviè of the Opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (Doc.9574))

Mrs ZWERVER (Netherlands).

I would thank the rapporteur for his good report on the situation in Belarus. He did not have an easy task, and he devoted a lot of time and energy to this issue.

I was a member of the ad hoc committee which visited Belarus in June. I was able to address parliament during the seminar on the issue of the relationship between parliament and civil society. It was my first visit to Belarus and I got a kind of schizophrenic idea of the country. It was as if I visited two totally different countries at one time.

We had discussions with representatives from NGOs. They told us that they had to operate in a rather restrictive manner. Restrictions were put on the freedom of assembly and association. The freedom day demonstration, organised by some opposition parties, led to fifty-nine arrests. In April, one hundred people were arrested in a demonstration.

Freedom of media is still subject to pressure and harassment from authorities. In June, two independent Belarussian journalists were condemned for seeking the truth about the spate of “disappearances” in the country. Nikolai Markevich and Pavel Mozheiko were sentenced to two and a half years and two years terms of restricted freedom for allegedly slandering the Belarussian president.

It is unacceptable to use criminal law to stifle criticism of the state authorities or to intimidate individuals who voice legitimate concerns about the actions or practices of state authority. People still “disappear” in Belarus and the Belarussian authorities fail to investigate these “disappearances” promptly. Little progress is made.

The ad hoc committee also talked to the Belarussian authorities, and they gave us a very positive picture of the democratic state of the country. In short, there is a huge gap between what the Belarussian authorities and civil society are saying.

The seminar in parliament was not bad, but one always wonders whether there is a gap between words and acts. Still, I think we have to go on with these talks. The democratic situation in Belarus is far from acceptable. Human rights violations continue, civil society is like a small baby and has no impact. There is no independence judiciary, there is a state monopoly on the media, and the electoral process is imperfect.

In short, at the moment there is no reason whatsoever to reconsider the restoration of the guest status of Belarus in the Parliamentary Assembly. I agree fully with the rapporteur that this does not imply that we should stop the co-operation between the Council of Europe and Belarus. Mr Berendt made some valuable recommendations regarding this co-operation, and I fully support him and thank him for this.

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