Alternative report on violations of Roma rights in Belarus sent to UN

Human rights defenders have submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination an alternative report on the implementation by the Republic of Belarus of the corresponding UN Convention. The report’s authors concluded that the Roma in Belarus are subject to discrimination, particularly in employment, resulting in exclusion, extreme poverty, and criminalization of the part of country’s Roma population.

According to the report, specifics of Belarus is that the government not only fails to take measures to improve the situation of the Roma population, but also subjects Roma people to repressions for the very fact of their miserable situation. This is reflected in the persecution of the Roma who are below the poverty line and cannot pay the ‘tax on parasitism’ or prove the legal origin of their income. The situation is exacerbated by threats of removing the children in low-income families.

Lack of state job placement programs and the impossibility of finding a legal means of earning a living have pushed some members of the Roma community into crime, which, given the prosecutorial bias of the Belarusian justice system, results in a disproportionately high number of Roma people (in comparison with the percentage of the Roma population of the country) in prisons and penal institutions of Belarus.

The human rights defenders consider it necessary to take the following measures to protect the rights of Roma in Belarus: adopt and implement a program to ensure the rights of all Roma people to a mandatory complete education and employment in their specializations; put an end to ethnic profiling and discrimination against members of the Roma minority by militia officers; ensure that courts treat Roma in a non-discriminatory manner; consider and review all statements on discrimination, including regarding violations of the rights of prisoners in jails and correctional colonies. In addition, the Government of the Republic of Belarus was recommended to repeal the anti-constitutional decree №3 “On prevention of social dependency” (which requires all unemployed citizens to pay a special tax) and the Decree №18 “On Additional Measures of State protection to children in dysfunctional families” (allowing to deprive the parent rights because of poverty, disease, and other circumstances, not depending on will of a person). Respect for human rights requires the immediate abolition of the death penalty, which still exists in Belarus (it was used against Roma convicts as well) and is contrary to international law.  

Alternative Report “From Penury to Prison: The Vicious Circle of Rights Violations Against the Roma of Belarus” is based on materials collected by ADC Memorial staff during a field mission to Belarus in the fall of 2017, and prepared with the participation of the International Centre for Civil Initiatives «Our House». The document is submitted for the 94th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is to be held from 20 November to 8 December in Geneva and during which the 20th – 23rd periodic reports of the Belarusian state will be considered.

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