Thursday, June 21, 2007

UN restrictions lifted...

Andei Popov: "I think the decision of the Council is nothing extraordinary. What was supposed to happen has happened”
The biggest story in the new BEING HAD Times is that the special reporter to the united Nations for Belarus has been relieved of his task and Belarus is now free from this particular issue concerning its human rights activities. This reversal came as a result of the human rights council, a body which replaced last year the human rights commission, removing the necessity to even have reporters on hand except for what is deemed to be extraordinary situations. Several other countries were also removed from the list including Myanmar, Zimbabwe, North Korea and Cuba. The only country that remained on the list was Israel, a decision based upon issues related to the military of the west bank.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack released a statement that he was unhappy with the decision:

    "Unfortunately, today the President of the Council announced a new rules package making these problems even worse, by terminating the mandates of the UN Rapporteurs on the Governments of Cuba and Belarus, two of the world’s most active perpetrators of serious human rights violations, and singling out Israel as the only country subject to a permanent agenda item,"
On the Belarusian side, Former presidential candidate Sergei Gaidukevich seemed to take the matter in stride and even let us know that it was a farce to have the UN poking their nose into Belarusian business up until now:

    “The Rapporteur worked for six years and what has changed in the time? His reports have not advanced the dialogue between states-members of the Council, between Belarus and Europe. Contrariwise, the reports furthered confrontation”,
He also explained that there will be complete understanding only when Belarus, as a sovereign state, faces no more severe requirements and demands. "Belarus actively and adequately pursues an open policy," He continued, "aimed at expanding the dialogue with all countries, including the European Union."

Andrei Popov seconded the motion that leaving Belarus off of the list of observed countries was nothing special:

    "I think the decision of the Council is nothing extraordinary. What was supposed to happen has happened”, stressed the official representative of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The decision is totally compliant with the spirit of the UN General Assembly’s resolution ‘Encouraging equal and mutually respective dialogue on human rights’. Belarus was one of the main initiators of the resolution. Let us remind you the resolution stresses the importance of avoiding confrontational approaches and the use of human rights for political ends”.
Belarus has had its issues with the UN for some time. The country has been shunned during the last two summits and it is well known that recently Belarus attempted to gain a seat on the human rights council but was rejected, a particular happinstance which was enthusiastically aplauded in the west and seen as a victory for common sence. Belarus' even attempting to gain the seat was look at as hubris and an insult to the body itself.

I wonder though what this decision really means. Obviously the Belarusian side is enjoying the moment rhetorically speaking. Their stance is as it has been since the beginning: Belarus is a soveriegn nation and free to carry on its internal affairs as it sees fit. Specifically, they have always regarded the UN as a tool of the Americans. Having this "burden" lifted then only allows for one less avenue of attack. One could even go so far as to view this as a moral victory for Belarus. For the west, the results would indeed be seen as a loss. The west "Human Right's issue" has been used as the main argument against even having respect for anything Belarus does.

I find it unlikely that the west will relent in its opinion of Belarus however. A change in business philosophy over the last year has made no impact in political relationships. Inviting European investors has not either. Even changing the private business laws has had no real effect. Belarus is Belarus is the attitude and basically the issue won't change until… well, until either Lukashenko is finished or the country is absorbed into Russia officially. Don’t count on either of these two things happening any time soon.

But in the meantime this is happy news for Belarusians. To this country, the news is being taken as a nod of approval and a step in the direction of acceptance. They know that this is not really the truth. They know that the EU has also decided to tighten trade status this week as well, a move that will cost Belarus up to a half billion dollars a year and could be seen as a punishment for this freedom. But in any case it is nice to get a little positive feedback now and again, no matter how tainted it might be.

Yes people, it is very hard to be in Belarus. Hard from the inside and hard from the outside as well. So I say there should be a party to celebrate our new UN status as a less-than-dangerous place human rights-wise and after, well, this is belarus so basically speaking we should all get back to work; there is still a lot to do. Most probably though no matter how nice the party is, tomorrow will look an awful lot like today. In any case, though there I one less thing to worry about and this is a very good thing.

More soon…