Interview with Dr Charles Tannock
Belarus Update - 13-20 September 2004
Edited by Nate Young
International League for Human Rights
Belarus Update Exclusive: Interview with Dr. Charles Tannock, European Parliamentarian and Co-Author of Recent EP Resolution on Belarus
On September 16, the European Parliament adopted by a large majority a resolution strongly condemning the ongoing harassment and intimidation of opposition political leaders, the worsening conditions for civil society, the likelihood of electoral fraud during October elections, and the attempts by President Aleksandr Lukashenko to seek a third term in office by altering the Constitution. The resolution noted similar measures taken last spring by the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to address the worsening human rights record of Belarus. In response to this timely resolution, Belarus Update had the opportunity to conduct a short interview with Dr. Charles Tannock, co-author of the resolution and Vice-President of the Parliament's Human Rights subcommittee.
1. BU: The Resolution mentions the willingness on behalf of the European Parliament to send an election observer mission to Belarus. If the electoral process does not meet international standards for free and fair elections, would the EP be willing to pull its monitoring team out of the country before voting takes place on October 17 as a symbolic statement that the elections are indeed illegitimate and fraudulent? The OSCE has taken similar action before.
CT: This decision would be taken by the observation team on the ground but I am sure if this was felt at the time to have more political impact it would be given serious consideration as a course of action. I am not aware that the EP observer missions have ever done such a thing before though
2. BU: The Resolution welcomes the involvement of UN Commission on Human Rights to tackle the problems in Belarus. In which ways can the European Union coordinate its efforts with the UN and the special rapporteur over the next year?
CT: There are few formal channels under current arrangements to coordinate our work with the UN or the Council of Europe but it is the intention of the Human Rights subcommittee of the EP of which I am the Vice Chairman to look at possible ways of improving this. One criticism often made though is that the UN Commission has members or even its Chair at times whose track record in terms of human rights is distinctly poor.
3. BU: The Resolution calls on member states to consider issuing travel bans on Belarusian officials like judges and policemen. Why not also issue bans on higher level officials, especially those implicated in the disappeared opposition figures? As you know, the Greek government decided to bar Yuri Sivakov, Belarusian Minister of Sports, from attending the Olympic Games this summer due to his involvement in the missing persons scandal.
CT: I would be happy to extend a travel ban to anyone implicated in criminal acts in Belarus who escapes prosecution solely due to political influence but its unlikely that all the member states would agree in all cases and this is a matter for the Council of Ministers not the European Parliament.