Belarus

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 20 January 2015.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke 11:30, 20 January 2015

What steps the Government are taking to promote human rights in Belarus.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

We make our concerns known through regular meetings between the British embassy in Minsk and the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and through representations by our senior officials in London to the Belarusian ambassador based here.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

I thank the Minister for that reply. There are likely to be Belarus presidential elections this year. Last time, such elections led to candidates being arrested, beaten up and even imprisoned. On this day, which is, after all, the birthday of our Parliament, what encouragement can he give to those who want to see free and fair elections in Belarus, which is such an important part of Europe?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

We will continue to speak up publically as a Government and through the European Union and other international organisations of which we are a member to draw attention to the continuing abuse of human rights within Belarus, to urge the Belarusian authorities to take the path towards European and democratic values of pluralism and the rule of law, and to speak up for individual Belarusian human rights defenders—men such as Mikola Statkevich, still in prison in Belarus today—and demand that those prisoners be not only released but fully rehabilitated.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Labour, Caerphilly

If Britain were to leave the European convention on human rights, what sort of message would that send to human rights supporters in Belarus?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

Of course, Belarus is not party to the European convention on human rights and is not subject to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. Whether we are looking at the European convention on human rights or the international covenant on civil and political rights, it is important to continue to urge the Belarusian authorities to end their flagrant abuse of normal human rights and democratic standards. That is something on which I hope the whole House will be united.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat, Westmorland and Lonsdale

On that point, given that Belarus is the only one of 48 European states not to be under the aegis of the European Court of Human Rights, will the Minister make it clear that he disagrees with those of his colleagues who think we should join that elite grouping?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

As the Prime Minister has made clear, we want to see reforms to the way in which human rights are dealt with in this country. We have a very long tradition of respecting human rights—one that is embodied in our parliamentary procedures and in our legal arrangements—and we want to make sure that it is the United Kingdom courts who stand up for human rights and that it is ultimately their judgments that interpret how human rights standards are applied here.