PACE regrets human rights abuses in Belarus

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Tuesday adopted a resolution that expressed regret over human rights abuses in Belarus and urged Minsk to suspend the construction of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant.

The resolution welcomed “positive developments,” such as the release of all political prisoners, the presence of two independent members in the House of Representatives and the registration of the “Tell the Truth!” movement.

PACE urged the Belarusian authorities to “rehabilitate former political prisoners” and “fully restore their civil and political rights.”

The resolution expressed regret that Minsk’s steps toward greater international openness and dialogue were “undermined by the recent escalation of mass violence and harassment against peaceful protesters in February and March 2017.”

PACE called on the Belarusian government to “immediately release opposition activists still detained and investigate allegations of ill-treatment and intimidation against them,” as well as to ensure respect for freedom of association, peaceful assembly, expression and the media, and “secure genuine political pluralism and free and fair elections.”

On the initiative of the Lithuanian delegation to PACE, the resolution was amended to include a call for suspending the construction of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant “because of numerous violations, the lack of respect for international standards for nuclear safety and serious safety violations and major incidents” during the facility’s construction.

Although some PACE members objected to the call, noting that it had nothing to do with the subject of human rights and PACE’s activities, it was still put to a vote and adopted.

The resolution said that PACE was determined to “engage both with the authorities and with independent civil society to promote stronger relations with Belarusian society as a whole, on the basis of Council of Europe values and democratic standards.”

PACE urged the Belarusian authorities to immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty and refrain from executing convicts who are currently on death row.

The resolution warned that “in the absence of a moratorium on the death penalty and of substantial, tangible and verifiable progress in terms of respect for the democratic values and principles upheld by the Council of Europe,” PACE was not in a position to call on its Bureau to lift the suspension of the special guest status for the Parliament of Belarus.