Belarus: United Nations expert hails release of political opponents, points to further steps ahead of presidential polls

26 August 2015
GENEVA (26 June 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, today welcomed the release of six political prisoners, but warned that “a thorough reform of the judiciary and the easing of the restrictions on civic and political rights are necessary for the upcoming presidential elections to be free and fair.”

“The release of Mikalai Statkevich, Mikalai Dziadok, Ihar Alinevich, Yauhen Vaskovich, Artsiom Prakapenka and Yury Rubtsou on 22 August, is good news for the prisoners and their families, as well as for the Belarusian nation and its human rights community,” Mr. Haraszti said.

“However,” he cautioned, “the positive gesture remains a half step without their full legal rehabilitation, the release of all people still detained for their civic stance, and the halting of the massive short-term detention of citizens who make use of their assembly and free speech rights.”

Noting that the President of Belarus had pardoned the six ‘on humanitarian reasons’,  Mr. Haraszti reminded of the persistent calls by the international community for this motion over the years.

“I have also repeatedly expressed concern, most recently on 11 June*, about the deterioration of the prison conditions and the harsh sanctions these prisoners were subjected to, and called for the immediate and unconditional release of all those imprisoned for the exercise of their political and other rights,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur called attention to the fact that none of the released political opponents could run for the next presidential election, scheduled for 11 October, as the deadline to register candidacies ended the day before they were freed. “The release of a prisoner alone will not provide for free and fair elections,” the expert said, referring to Mikalai Statkevich, a rival of incumbent president Aleksandr Lukashenko in the last presidential elections of 2010 who was released after spending four and a half years in prison.

“No steps have been taken toward easing the rules restricting the rights to freedom of  association, peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression, and no meaningful reforms of the judicial system have been undertaken,” Mr. Haraszti said. “The release of political opponents, which was as calculated and arbitrary as their incarceration, only highlights the urgently needed steps towards the strengthening of rule of law in Belarus.”

The rights expert also noted the ongoing restrictions in which the released political personalities find themselves: “They have criminal records and some of them are placed under police surveillance with severe limitations of their movement, along with the obligation to report regularly with the police.”

“It is crucial for the consolidation of human rights in the country that political prisoners not only be released, but also fully rehabilitated, their civil and political rights reinstated, allowing them to reintegrate and participate in the public life of Belarus,” he underscored.

The Special Rapporteur reiterated his call to the authorities of Belarus to embark on reforms aiming to allow for the full exercise of human rights and all the public freedoms necessary for free and fair elections.

(*) Read: UN rights expert warns of worsening situation for political prisoners in Belarus ahead of elections -    

Mr. Miklós Haraszti (Hungary) was designated as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012. In the 70s, Mr. Haraszti was a founder of Hungary’s human rights and free press movement, and in the 1990s he was a Member of the Hungarian Parliament. From 2004 to 2010, he served as the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. Since 2010, he has been a Professor at several universities teaching media democratisation. Learn more, log on to:

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

(*) Check all the Special Rapporteur’s reports on Belarus:

UN Human Rights, country page – Belarus:

For use of the information media; not an official record