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Statement by Mr. Alyaksandr Sychov, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Belarus to the OSCE, at the Meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council (29 June 2006)

In response to the report by Ambassador Christian Strohal, Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

Mr. Chairman,

Our delegation has listened with interest to the informative and detailed report by Ambassador Christian Strohal, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Altogether the information set out in the report gives us a fairly complete picture of the activities carried out by the Office on implementation of its mandate and relevant decisions by the OSCE collective bodies.

We believe that this year the ODIHR should focus its attention primarily on implementing Decision No. 17/05 of the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting held at Ljubljana, which entrusted the ODIHR with the task of preparing a report for the Ministerial Council meeting in Brussels.

We welcome the intention of the Office to perform this task in a responsible way by preparing a high quality informative report containing answers to many of the questions raised today.

At the same time, we feel that the work on this report has been so far not sufficiently transparent. The delegation of Belarus submitted its questions to the ODIHR in writing, but no detailed consultations have been held yet on the substance of the problems we raised. We are far from being indifferent to how our concerns and problems will be reflected in the report and what possibilities for their resolution will be suggested.

We hope to receive more answers in the course of the informal discussions on 7 July this year, although we are not sure that a single meeting before the summer break will be sufficient. We believe that additional consultations will be required, including talks with the delegations in Vienna.

We hope and expect that within the framework of the Warsaw Human Dimension Implementation Meeting and subsequent events, we will be able to hold a substantive discussion on the question of increasing the ODIHR effectiveness and transparency, a matter we agreed upon in Ljubljana. Unfortunately, it seems that not all delegations deem such a frank discussion necessary. Some prefer to use the ODIHR as an instrument for applying pressure, although they themselves, in doing that, evade candid and open collaboration with the Office. The fact that only 18 delegations out of 56 have submitted answers to the questions regarding access for international observers to elections in their countries says a lot. It is surprising that the ODIHR, which claims to be an absolutely independent body, should fail here to display the same persistence in gathering essential information which it has insisted on in connection with some of its other questionnaires.

Mr. Chairman,

Our position on the ODIHR activities in the area of election observation is well known. We have already had several opportunities to touch upon the methods used by the ODIHR and its election observation missions in connection with the preparation and conduct of the presidential elections in the Republic of Belarus in March this year. Without going into details, I shall merely emphasize that the Offices work during recent election campaigns in the OSCE area has further strengthened our view that the the ODIHR election observation activities need to be further improved, among other things in the context of the OSCE general reform.

We intend to give a fuller account of our experience with the ODIHR election observation mission at the Permanent Council meeting on 13 July this year, when we will present the official reaction of the Government of Belarus to the ODIHR final report on the presidential elections which took place in Belarus in March this year. After the meeting of the Permanent Council we also intend to give a special briefing for the delegations with the participation of official representatives of the Republic of Belarus. We expect that this presentation will make an additional contribution to the discussion on enhancing the effectiveness of the ODIHR missions. We are counting on the help of the Belgian Chairmanship in organizing this event and hope for broad participation of the delegations and the ODIHR itself.

Mr. Chairman,

I should like to inform you that the Republic of Belarus has joined other countries in replying to the ODIHR questionnaire on human rights in the armed forces. We regard this as our contribution to increasing transparency in this area and fulfilling relevant OSCE commitments. We are currently trying to arrange participation of a Belarus' representative in an event to be jointy organized with the German Ministry of Defence in Berlin in September this year.

In connection with the other questions raised in the report by the Director of the ODIHR, let me dwell briefly on the problems of combating trafficking in persons. The Republic of Belarus devotes a great deal of attention to practical steps aimed at improving the collaboration in this area. In this context we count on expanding the cooperation with the ODIHR among others, as well as the coordination with the OSCE Office in Minsk and the Anti-Trafficking Assistance Unit in the OSCE Secretariat. Here I should like to express our hope that the existence of parallel subunits in the OSCE engaged in dealing with similar problems should double or triple the overall achievement in their work and not simply lead to duplication or competition.

Mr. Chairman,

We intend to study carefully the distributed ODIHR preliminary report on hate motivated incidents, and return to it at a later stage. We believe that the ODIHR activities in the realm of tolerance and non discrimination are one of the most important aspects of its work and should bring concrete results in the form of recommendations and practical assistance to participating States with a view to overcoming and preventing dangerous tendencies in this area.

With regard to Mr. Strohals comments on the attention his Office is giving to the issues of human rights observance of in the fight against terrorism, I should like to draw his attention to a statement made by the delegation of Belarus at the Permanent Council meeting held on 15 June this year, where a number of very important questions were touched upon. In the first place, this involves the dubious practice of abducting individuals suspected of terrorist activities and extradicting them without legal process or investigation. We would like to hear further information on the steps the ODIHR is taking to examine this situation. We would also like to know whether the Council of Europe has been contacted in this regard and whether the ODIHR is planning to submit a special report to the delegations.

Mr. Chairman,

In conclusion, I should like to say that the work of the ODIHR and delegations in the course of the year has focused on a huge number of various events in human dimension. In fact, it is stated in todays report.

At the same time, we all know that the work of our Organization is carried out in three security dimensions, each of them being important and valuable. To enhance the effectiveness and transparency of the work of our Organization, we consider it essential to examine these questions in the whole with a view to adopting concrete decisions on the OSCE reform laready this year. It is extremely important here to take into account the interests of all participating States and work in a balanced manner on all issues relating to security and cooperation and corresponding to the States' commitments with no exclusiveness or hierarchy among different dimensions or bodies.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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