Planned changes to Belarus legal code could threaten basic freedoms – UN expert

12 December 2005

A United Nations human rights expert has appealed to Belarus not to adopt new provisions for its legal codes that he says could threaten basic freedoms of individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and even make it difficult for him to fulfil his mandate.

“These provisions have the potential to severely undermine the rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of expression of civil society organizations and individuals,” Adrian Severin, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, said in a formal statement released on Friday.

He says changes to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure of Belarus – on strengthening liability for deeds addressed against persons and public security – incorporates vague definitions and may open the way for arbitrary application of the law.

Besides urging that the provisions not be adopted, he appealed to the Government of Belarus to put an end to ongoing harassment and persecution of human rights defenders and to take all necessary steps to secure the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The legal changes have been accepted by the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus, and will be adopted if the Upper Chamber approves them on second reading on Friday, he said.

Mr. Severin said one new article, on Discrediting the Republic of Belarus, raises a particular concern, since it provides for criminal liability for submitting to international organizations “false information” on the situation in the country.

The proposed amendments could have a negative impact on the co-operation between the UN and NGOs, he said. In that way, they could effectively undermine efforts to fulfil his mandate as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

Special Rapporteurs are unpaid experts serving in an independent personal capacity who receive their mandate from the UN Human Rights Commission.

 

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