Albeit after the release of political prisoners in August 2015 the situation with human and civil rights in Belarus was relatively calm, in the absence of systemic changes and reforms no guarantees that a political or social protest will not result in immediate repressions and violations of human rights were created. As a proof, the peaceful protests of Belarusian people against the Decree No.3 “On preventing social dependency” in February-March 2017 resulted in severe repressions and mass human rights abuses by the Belarusian authorities. Following these events, the EaP CSF decided to send a monitoring mission to Belarus in order to investigate the state of civil society, media and human rights in the country.
The Monitoring Mission of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum on the civil society, media and human rights situation in Belarus (the Mission) visited the country during the period of 28 March-1 April 2017. The Mission’s team was composed of leading experts in the field of human rights and civil society support from Armenia, Latvia, Poland and Ukraine; the EaP CSF Belarusian National Platform supported its work. The Mission’s main objectives were to assess the environment for the work of civil society and independent media against the backdrop of the large-scale demonstrations in February-March 2017; to analyse the consequences of the social and political crisis for the civil society and media in Belarus; as well as evaluate the prospects for the EU-Belarus relations and country’s participation in the Eastern Partnership policies. During the visit to Belarus, the Mission discussed the situation with the representatives of the EaP CSF National Platform, independent media, leading human rights NGOs and international organisations, as well as policy experts, human rights lawyers, the prosecuted and their family members. Moreover, public statements and reports of the local and international human rights organizations, EU institutions and expert opinions were analysed. Currently, the Mission is preparing the report and a wide range of recommendations to be submitted in the near future to the Steering Committee, relevant stakeholders and the public.
The set of preliminary recommendations to the EU institutions released after the conclusion of the Mission include:
- The necessity to build the EU-Belarus relations strategy on the conditionality approach and according to result oriented reform activities, with well defined and clearly articulated deliverables. In particular, any further development of the EU-Belarus dialogue must be conditional to a number of key reforms in the sphere of human rights and democratization, including the revision of the process of NGO registration and the process of registration and accreditation of foreign media;
- The introduction of a clear participatory and monitoring mandate for the civil society in the EU-Belarus cooperation format, with the institutional involvement of the EaP CSF Belarusian National Platform.