Statement on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention: Belarus
Authorities do not inform families of the execution date or the burial place. In October , authorities executed Kiryl Kazachok, sentenced on murder charges in December In mid-May, they executed Viktar Liotau and Aliaksei Mikhalenia, both sentenced on murder charges in In December and May respectively, appeal courts upheld death sentences for Ihar Hershankou and Siamion Berazhnou, sentenced on fraud and murder charges in , and Viachaslau Sukharka and Aliaksandr Zhylnikau, sentenced on murder charges in According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, between January and August, authorities arbitrarily detained 29 journalists, including while covering Freedom Day protests.
In December , a court fined Anatol Bukas, chief editor of Naviny. In November, the Justice Ministry issued the outlet a warning for violating mass media legislation. In February, the police beat Belsat cameraman Andrus Koziel for live-streaming vote counting during local elections and jailed him for one night. In February, year old blogger Stsiapan Sviatlou became a target for police for allegedly posting videos that insulted President Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
Authorities intensified the prosecution of freelance journalists for cooperating with unregistered foreign media, bringing 33 cases against 17 journalists from September through December , and 85 cases against 31 journalists from January through September , an increase over the same period in In August, authorities launched a criminal probe against several publications for allegedly using passwords for the state news agency, BelTA, without authorization in order to access it for free.
The disproportionate response raised concerns that the government was using the issue to punish news outlets.
June amendments to the Law on Mass Media introduced additional, excessive restrictions requiring that all online media outlets keep public records of the names of people who submit comments online and disclose that information to authorities. The amendments also provided for holding owners of registered online media criminally liable for any content posted on their website. Authorities refused to investigate police mistreatment of Aliaksei Loika during a police raid at Viasna Human Rights Center in March In October , border officials arbitrarily detained and searched another Viasna member, who was returning to Belarus after attending a human rights forum, before ultimately releasing him.
In February, human rights lawyer Elena Tonkacheva returned to Belarus after the expiration of an arbitrarily imposed three-year entry ban. In a hangover from communist rule, however, the government may criminally prosecute people for slandering public officials. The government treats racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups equally under the law.
Workers have the right to join independent unions, and most have the legal right to strike. Women, however, experience serious job discrimination. While the right to a fair trial exists, the court system is slow, inefficient, and lacks public confidence. Poland has abolished the death penalty for all crimes. The shock of change has perhaps affected Russia the most.
It has gone from a superpower, the leader of the communist world, to a nation struggling to make the transition to democracy and capitalism. In , Boris Yeltsin , a former communist-party official, became Russia's first freely elected leader. When economic conditions worsened as he implemented free-market reforms, communist politicians made strong showings in parliamentary elections.
This enabled them to block economic reforms. Legislators even led an armed revolt in , which the army had to put down. In , Russia began its transition from a socialist economy controlled by government planning to a free market. Government subsidies for most consumer goods and services stopped, and thousands of state-owned businesses converted to private enterprises. Many workers lost their jobs, prices rose, and many people lost their savings in fraudulent "get rich" schemes. By , the Russian economy faced an economic depression.
The government defaulted on payments for foreign loans used to pay for huge national budget deficits. Under heavy criticism, President Yeltsin resigned in December He appointed Vladimir Putin , a former Soviet espionage official, as acting president. Since , the economy has improved. It has benefited from the higher world prices for oil, which is a major Russian natural resource and export. Economic growth and wages are rising.
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Unemployment, however, is still above 10 percent. Russia is still struggling to separate business and government, which were fused together during the communist era.
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In the s, government bureaucrats often took bribes from large new capitalist enterprises to permit their plundering of the nation's natural resources. Surveys of small-business owners consistently put bribery and corruption of government officials as the greatest barrier to a truly competitive free-enterprise system. Reformers say that Russia must modernize old and inefficient industries, make it easier to buy and sell farmland, improve tax collection, and rein in the cost of government social benefits.
Commercial law codes are inadequate, making enforcing business contracts sometimes difficult. Many people oppose the economic reforms. They want an improved social safety net. They are pushing for better protections for retirement, health, and employment. Decades of environmental neglect have resulted in much air and water pollution. Pollution causes up to 40 percent of all illnesses in industrialized areas. The United States recently designated Russia as a "market economy.
State Department releases Belarus 2018 Human Rights report
In , Russian voters approved a new constitution drafted by President Yeltsin. The constitution grants strong powers to the president, including the power to issue decrees that have the force of law. By contrast, the Russian parliament is relatively weak. In the area of national defense, Russia opposes NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe, but has a cooperative arrangement with the alliance. Russian political parties are competitive, but are significant only in parliamentary elections.
Elections have been generally free and fair with up to 70 percent voter participation. The Russian Communist Party won 25 percent of the popular vote in the parliamentary election. Acting President Putin won a full term in March Putin is continuing the economic and democratic reforms. But he struggles against opposition from communists and nationalists who yearn for the days of the Soviet superpower and the protections workers used to enjoy.
International observers have alleged major human-rights violations in Russia's continuing war against Chechnya. This is a Russian territory whose people are mostly Muslim and want to form an independent country. Russian troops invaded Chechnya in and again in to put down armed revolts. The Russian military used indiscriminate force, causing many civilian casualties. There also have been many reports of atrocities by Russian soldiers against the civilian population. The Russian government views Chechnya as a home to terrorists and sees its actions in line with the recent U.
Security Council resolution against terrorism. Freedom of speech, assembly, and religion now exist in Russia, but freedom of the press is limited. The government has censored news stories and prosecuted journalists for insulting public officials.
The government has often been slow to prosecute "skinheads" and "hooligans" who attack people belonging to religious and other minority groups. Workers have the right to join unions and to strike.
But the law bars unions from representing members in non-payment of wages cases, a major grievance among Russian workers. Police beatings and torture are still widespread. Extreme overcrowding and other harsh prison conditions cause 10, inmate deaths a year. Russia retains the death penalty, but does not use it in practice. Belarus held its first presidential election in International monitors judged that it was free and fair.
The winner of the presidential election, Alexander Lukashenko , was relatively unknown.
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He was a communist member of parliament who had a reputation for fighting corruption. He ran on a platform of keeping government subsidies for industries and agriculture, maintaining government price controls, and unifying Belarus with Russia. As in most other emerging democracies, free-market reforms in Belarus at first caused rising unemployment and a depressed economy. Once elected president, Alexander Lukashenko drastically slowed the transition to a free-market economy.