At its 34th to 36th meetings, held on 21 and 22 November
1996, the Committee considered the third periodic report
of the Republic of Belarus on articles 1 to 15 of the
Covenant (E/1994/104/Add.6) and adopted, at its 54th
meeting held on 5 December 1996, the following concluding
The Committee is gratified that the State party punctually
submitted its third periodic report, which complied
with the guidelines regarding the form and contents
of reports to be submitted by States parties. It appreciates
also the additional information provided in response
to the written list of questions, although the latter
did not follow a sufficiently clear format. It welcomes
the high-level delegation, with which it engaged in
an open and constructive dialogue. With some exceptions,
the members of the delegation provided satisfactory
oral replies to most of the Committee's questions.
B. Positive aspects
The Committee welcomes efforts by the State party to
improve and update its legislation and to bring it into
line with the socio-economic sphere. In particular,
it regards as positive developments the steps taken
to update the Labour Code, the Act on collective agreements
and work agreements, the Act on pension provision, the
Act on employment and the Act on procedures for the
settling of labour disputes, and the authorities' dialogue
on these questions with experts from the International
The Committee notes that the Government is taking steps
to combat unemployment, inter alia by setting
up and boosting the efficiency of a State employment
service and a vocational training and retraining scheme,
and by drawing up yearly government employment programmes
to aid the unemployed in finding work and offer them
The Committee notes the State party's efforts to cope
with the aftermath of the accident at the Chernobyl
nuclear power station, including the provision of medical
assistance to those directly affected and welfare measures
for those who were in the vicinity at the time of the
The Committee also notes efforts by the Belarusian authorities
to incorporate human rights issues into school curricula
and teacher-training schedules, and the corresponding
segments and specialized courses into vocational training,
retraining and further education programmes for professionals
of all categories. It also notes with satisfaction the
establishment of a Human Rights Chair in the Academy
of the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The Committee welcomes the statement by the head of
the Belarusian delegation that his Government endorsed
the idea of drafting an optional protocol to the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The Committee is gratified that the third periodic report
of Belarus has been issued as a pamphlet and sent to
libraries, the mass media and non-governmental organizations
in the State party.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation
of the Covenant
The Committee notes that Belarus is undergoing rapid
changes in its development and is experiencing the sort
of difficulties in socio-economic matters that are typical
in many countries with economies in transition.
dissolution of the Soviet Union has adversely affected
the Belarusian economy - especially its industry, large
parts of which were closely linked to and dependent
on the economies of other republics of the former USSR.
Escape from economic crisis is rendered more difficult
by the fact that Belarus, with few natural and energy
resources of its own, is heavily dependent on raw materials
and energy from elsewhere. Rising energy costs have
directly affected prices for basic necessities and food.
The clean-up after the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear
power station is said to absorb up to 20 per cent of
the annual budget. International donors and investors
have withheld their aid or investments pending the introduction
of legal and economic reforms. Many of the country's
present economic and social difficulties show the need
to expedite economic reforms and to build up democratic
institutions based on the principles of the rule of
D. Principal subjects of concern
The Committee observes that the establishment of a regime
that concentrates power in the presidency at the expense
of the independent role of the Parliament and the independence
of the judiciary is not consistent with the political
environment necessary for the exercise of human rights,
including economic, social and cultural rights.
The Committee expresses its deep concern at the growing
number of people in Belarus living at or below the poverty
line, the sharp decline in purchasing power and the
widening gulf between rich and poor with the very poorest
segments of the population having extremely low incomes.
The Committee also expresses concern that crime, drug
use and corruption are on the increase.
The Committee is concerned that some 600,000 children
still live in the zone affected by the accident at the
Chernobyl nuclear power station.
The Committee is concerned at the rise in unemployment,
particularly in relation to its disproportionate impact
on women. It is also concerned at the discrimination
against women in appointment to jobs.
The Committee is disturbed at the legal status of trade
unions in Belarus: the shortcomings of the legislation
regulating their activities and the existence of certain
legislative provisions which restrict freedom of association.
It notes with concern that a number of formerly recognized
major trade unions, all of which have been required
to register anew under the new legislation, appear to
have been prevented from applying for re-registration
with the Ministry of Justice.
The Committee expresses its preoccupation at the fact
that the report contains no information on treatment
of persons infected with HIV/AIDS. The delegation's
assurance that there exists sexual counselling for men
as well as for pregnant women does not eliminate the
Committee's concern that such services are inadequate.
Although the Committee notes the Government's assurance
that it has created sufficient detoxification and rehabilitation
centres for drug and alcohol addicts, it remains concerned
that what is being done in this area does not appear
to be sufficient to meet the needs that exist.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
The Committee is gratified that article 8 of the Belarusian
Constitution acknowledges the primacy of principles
of international law and requires national legislation
to conform to those principles. The Committee, taking
note of the acknowledgement by the delegation that Belarus
legislation needs to be reviewed to bring it into conformity
with the Covenant, recommends that the necessary measures
be taken as soon as possible and that the human rights
legislation to be enacted in Belarus should closely
match internationally acknowledged standards.
The Committee emphasizes that any economic reform adopted
should be undertaken in a manner that is consistent
with protection of the economic and social rights of
the poorer segments of society.
The Committee draws the Government's attention to the
need to update the legislation governing the freedom
of activity of trade unions and the need for legislation
on the right to strikes; such legislation should accord
with the provisions of the Covenant and the International
Labour Organization Conventions No. 87 (Freedom of Association
and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention)
and No. 98 (Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining
Convention). The Committee urges that consideration
be given to limiting the list of sectors in which workers
do not have the right to strike to no more than those
authorized by relevant international standards, such
as the armed forces, the police, etc.
The Committee also calls upon the Government to adopt
legislation and practical steps to combat discrimination
against women in employment.
The Committee notes the need for the State party to
respond to the challenge of HIV/AIDS with adequate new
legislative and social measures. In this connection,
it would be appropriate if the Government would coordinate
with the relevant departments of the World Health Organization
and UNAIDS. The Committee requests the Government to
provide it, in its fourth periodic report, with relevant
statistics and information on concrete measures undertaken
in that respect since the consideration of the present
The Committee requests the State party, in its fourth
periodic report, to supply it with information on the
steps it is taking to raise the standards of living,
reduce unemployment, and eliminate the restrictive legislation
governing trade unions.
The Committee recommends that the Government should
increase its efforts in relation to human right education
so as to ensure that all categories of students, teachers,
judges and the police and other law enforcement agents
The Committee calls upon the State party to consider
the adoption of measures which would enable the courts
to take account of and apply the rights recognized in
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
The Committee encourages the State party to disseminate
widely the concluding observations adopted by the Committee
following the consideration of the State party's third