29 March 2023, Wednesday, 19:58
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

Council Of Europe: What Belarus Really Needs Today

Council Of Europe: What Belarus Really Needs Today
Andrei Sannikov

Three main directions.

We need help in times of war to fight evil, not to be taught the theory of life.

The breaking news swept through the Belarusian non-state media on February, 1: the Council of Europe launches an action plan of 15 points to support democratic forces and civil society in Belarus. That sounds great, gotta have a look at what they've launched there.

A quote:

Activities include human rights training, seminars on the European Convention on Human Rights and study tours to attract Belarusian lawyers to the Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg.

The plan also includes awareness-raising on key issues, including the abolition of the death penalty, non-discrimination, gender equality and combating violence against women. A seminar for journalists in exile is planned for March.

"I am proud that our organization is playing a pioneering role in supporting democratic Belarus," said Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić upon the launch.

Now, you read such revelations and realize that we are "treated as idiots".

Where is the innovation here?

All of the above have been loudly and repeatedly proclaimed as a priority in relations with Belarus, which, remember, is not a member of the Council of Europe.

Moreover, in case anybody does not know, the Council of Europe once offered Lukashenka a cynical and mean exchange: if you introduce at least a moratorium on the death penalty, Belarus will become a member of the Council of Europe.

It would seem that after the twentieth year at least something should change in the European bureaucracy with regard to Lukashenka's regime. But no!

Are abolition of the death penalty, non-discrimination, gender equality and combating violence against women (and I am quoting again) the key priorities for you?

Are you serious?

Where are you going to push for gender equality, non-violence and abolition of the death penalty? In a concentration camp?

Your efforts of many years have not yielded any results, and sometimes they have been totally negative, for example, when you were taking to Europe election riggers and criminals responsible for repressions against citizens of Belarus.

Now we are at war. The clique is at war with the people. There are victims, new wounded appear every day (sic!) after beatings during arrests and tortures in prisons. We have women, human rights defenders, who are tortured with stun guns and a Nobel Prize winner who is being caged in handcuffs and tried on trumped up charges.

Who told you that any of the above is even remotely possible in Belarus under this regime?

Or do you want to teach how to oppose violence against women, gender equality and abolition of the death penalty to people who were forced to leave their homeland because of threats to their lives? But they now live where the laws are in force, in your own countries.

The launched plan contains a painfully familiar set of activities: trainings, trainings for trainings, familiarizing, learning, discussing, and excursions.

To be honest, I think highly of the Council of Europe as an institution, especially of its Parliamentary Assembly, but I have a very low opinion of the activities organized under the auspices of this honorable organization.

The activities under the Council of Europe programmes that I witnessed and even participated in long ago, at a time of relatively mild repression, were aimed at training civil society to imitate activism.

In the 1990s, one could still agree that our teachers would be specialists from Europe, but today...

It is journalists and human rights activists from Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, etc. who should be conducting seminars nowadays, including for Europeans, on how to work underground and in resistance mode.

To be fair, it is worth noting that there is a section on helping victims of repression in the plan, but it is very cautious, along the lines of "what can we do?"

Shortly before the "innovative" plan for Belarus, the Council of Europe's $50 million Action Plan for Ukraine, the organization's most ambitious plan for a single country, was adopted.

It also contains mantras about equality, nonviolence and other things.

However, on the whole it is aimed at strengthening the institutions of democracy, because these institutions exist in Ukraine even during the war.

The Council of Europe will work with the Ukrainian authorities to address the "urgent needs and priorities", in particular in protecting the rights of people whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by war, protecting the rights of children during war and helping to provide decent social protection for those affected.

And that's something we need, too. These are our priorities as well. There is a war going on in our country, too. A different, but a terrible one, the one that is becoming invisible to the world.

Even if hundreds, thousands of seminars and trainings on abolition of death penalty are held, under this regime their number will only grow. It is the same with all the other issues that are "key" ones for the Council of Europe.

For some reason, the Council of Europe bureaucracy tries keep a distance from the decisions of its institutions: yet the latest acts of the Parliamentary Assembly set up some specific areas where we really need help.

1. PACE has passed a resolution to create an international tribunal to investigate war crimes committed by the Putin and Lukashenka regimes, and has announced its intention to play a leading role in this. This is where help is needed, for example, to create a special group to collect and systematize evidence of the Lukashenka regime's crimes, not only military ones, but also those against humanity.

2. We need a special permanent mechanism on political prisoners in Belarus, of whom there are thousands, obviously more than five thousand. Recently, at the initiative of the human rights organization of Libereco, 19 PACE members signed letters to Belarusian political prisoners. This should not be a one-time event. Letters with demands to respect the rights of political prisoners and warnings about the responsibility should also be sent to the administrations of prisons and colonies. It works.

3. Humanitarian work. It is necessary to help the people knocked out of life both in Belarus and outside its borders. To provide education in Europe for children from Belarus, who have lost the opportunity to study and their friends. Assistance is needed for political prisoners and their relatives suffering from serious illnesses. Mobilisation of international institutions for such assistance should be done namely through the Council of Europe, where Lukashenka, fortunately, has no voice, and from where his patron Putin has been kicked out.

There is a war going on.

The war that is visible, and the one that has become invisible.

One needs help in times of war to fight evil, not to be taught the theory of life in ancient Greek Arcadia.

Andrei Sannikov, Facebook