Belarusian Journal of International Law and International Relations 1998 — N 5

The 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Special Issue

Summaries 


International Law

Human Rights Concept

Modern Concept of Human Rights and Freedoms and its Treatment in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 — Ludmila Pavlova

Issues of International Ideology of Human Rights: Principles and Imperatives — Leonid Yevmenov

Non-Western Concept of Human Rights — Yulianna Malevich

Basic Human Rights

Towards International Legal Regulation of the Right to Life — Konstantin Akimenko

International Legal Principles of Environment Protection and Human Rights — Sergey Balashenko

The European Union Citizenship: Nonsense or Objective Regularity in International Law — Yuri Lepeshkov

International and National Protection of the Rights of the Child

The Emergence and Development of International Protection of the Rights of the Child — Oleg Starovoitov

Convention on the Rights  of the Child —  Education for the 12th Century — Alena Kroupova

International and National Protection of the Rights of Refugees

Is the Refugee a Law Offender? — Larisa Vassilieva

Human Rights International Standards Implementation in Legislation of the Republic of Belarus

Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus Activities on Protection of Citizens’ Rights and Freedoms — Grigory Vasilevich

Civil and Human Rights Codification in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus — Vladimir Kivel

The Internal State Mechanism of Human Rights Protection (Foreign and Home Experience) — Yulia Minchenkova

International Organizations Activities on Human Rights in the Republic of Belarus

UNHCR Activities and Human Rights — Vitaly Maslovsky

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Mission and its Further Activities in the Republic of Belarus in the Field of Protection of the Rights of the Child — Galina Leonova

The Forum of the Young

The United Nations Role in Modern World — Victoriya Serdiukova (only russian)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights: All Human Rights for All — Natalya Rysiukevich (only russian)

Refugees and the World Community: History and Present Day — Olga Zaitseva (only russian)


FULL ISSUE 

 


English Summaries

 


“Modern Concept of Human Rights and Freedoms and its Treatment in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948” (Ludmila Pavlova)

The article “Modern Concept of Human Rights and Freedoms and its Treatment in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948” reveals the contents of modern concept of human rights in the treatment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. The article shows that the process of formation of human right has taken a long way, closely connected with the history of human society development. It was formed under the influence of two factors: philosophical ideas and their legal regulation. Although these processes did not coincide in time, they permanently interacted. In the conditions of slaveholder and feudal societies with their class hierachy structure, the progressive ideal of the ancient philosophers did not get the appropriate reflection in legislation which viewed human rights only as a privilege of the ruling class. Radical changes took place in the period of bourgeois revolutions when the ideas of philosophers representing the Enlightenment epoch of the XVI—XVIII centuries contributed to the formation of natural legal concept of human rights and were codified in English, American and French constitutional legislation.

A special place can be given to the French Declaration of Human Rights of 1789 where the content of human rights was revealed for the first time and also the role of the State in fixing the status of individual in civic society was defined, as well as the value of personal identity was underlined. The principles of the organization of state power were very similar to those of modern legal state. This is the reason for the relevance of the French Declaration provisions today and this is what permits to consider it as the basis for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

The article stresses that the Soviet Union was the author of legal codification and treatment of social economic laws, although one can not dispute the priority of Western European countries and the USA in the formation of the general concept of human rights and its legal regulations. Thus, the formed concept of human rights and freedoms fixed in the legislation of the most developed states of that time was already present before the beginning of the Universal Declaration development.

The issue concerning the necessity of the elaboration of the Declaration of Human Rights was raised by the US during the development of the Charter. The reasons which changed the necessity of the development of the human rights protection mechanism were later formulated in the Preamble of the Declaration and were focused on the following: ignoring and violation of human dignity led to the barbaric acts in World War II; it is necessary to have the whole complex of both civic and political measures for the normal activities of every individual; codification of the rights and freedoms in a single document creates the conditions for the education in the sphere of human rights thus contributing to their respect and adoption of measures for their implementation on the national and international scale.

The development of the Universal Declaration either within the framework of the Commission on Human Rights or the Third Committee of the UN due to their representing the States, belonging to various geographical regions and political systems has contributed to summarizing of different doctrinal approaches, ideologies and national legislation and caused continuous discussions on every article of the Declaration draft.

The controversy concerned the nature and content of human rights and were caused not only by ideological contradictions but also by cultural discrepancies and different religious systems. However, as a result of the three-month work of the Third Committee the UN General Assembly managed to agree on the content of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its adoption (with only 8 abstaining) can be characterized as an outstanding example of cooperation of the States what concerns such complicated problem as human rights.

The article analyzes in detail the concept of human rights and freedoms codified in the Declaration which consists of the following components: fundamental human rights principles, classification of rights and freedoms, human rights and society and the correlation of both state and human rights.

The exploration of the Universal Declaration content resulted in the conclusion about its historical continuity in regard to the French Declaration of Human Rights. However, adopted in the new conditions of postwar world development, it has contributed a range of innovative aspects concerning both content and concept. The Declaration underlined universal and non-discriminatory nature of human rights and freedoms having prohibited all exceptions in their awarding and extending them to every individual irrespective of her/his residence territory status. Thus, the peoples of the colonies and other dependent territories were proclaimed to be the subjects of basic rights and freedoms for the first time. The declaration also for the first time has codified at the international level social, economic and cultural rights showing their interrelation with civic and political rights, and the necessity for ensuring human dignity.

The article devotes attention to the exploration of the modern evolution of the human rights concept. It goes in the following directions: 1) interpretation of the principles concerning human rights in the OSCE documents; 2) more detailed and specific overview of fundamental human rights and freedoms in the universal and regional international treaties on human rights and their regulations concerning certain social groups; 3) development of international human rights protection institute.

The article concludes that the evolution of human rights concept is no evidence of radical changes in the content of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It only shows the specification and detailisation of its provisions.


“Issues of International Ideology of Human Rights: Principles and Imperatives” (Leonid Yelmenov)

The community of nations has at present no formal international ideology of human rights as a specially elaborated system of concepts and categories. This definite common conceptual system is yet to be created.

But it does exist de facto in the international, regional and inter-regional acts on human rights, in the resolutions and decisions of the UN General Assembly, the General Conference of the UNESCO and in the documents of the UN functional agencies such as the Human Rights Commission, and ECOSOC. It can be found in the materials of Teheran and Vienna World Conferences on human rights, in the speeches and publications of the leaders of the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and others.

The conceptual framework of this virtually formed international ideology is especially clearly represented by the internationally recognized norms and standards of human rights and rights of nations which make up the core of the contents of international legal acts in the human rights realm, first of all, in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Pact of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Pact of Civil and Political rights.

The article analyzes the correspondence of the conceptual framework to the contemporary level of philosophical, political and legal knowledge and the contemporary state and particulars of historical development of society on the example of the PRINCIPLES and IMPERATIVES of the strategic problem of the theory and practice in developing and realization of human rights.


“Non-Western Concept of Human Rights” (Yulianna Malevich)

The article “A Non-Western Concept of Human Rights” is devoted to the problem of exploration of “non-western” concepts of approach towards the human rights issue. The aim of the article is a brief study of the ways along which some of “non-western” traditional cultures approached treating the problems which are now referred to as the sphere of human rights.

The author further proves that the social guarantees which are viewed as identical with human rights are in fact very far from the real human rights and are connected with a large number of obligations. The author undertakes a sufficiently deep analysis of the sources basis and literature on this problem.

The article devotes much attention to the human rights tradition in the Islamic world. The author notes that the Koran texts supposedly declare 14 human rights established by Islam. However, these rights are not universal being guaranteed only for rulers and large-scale proprietors. In Islam obligations have greater importance than rights in the sphere of human rights. Nevertheless, whatever are the rights, they arise as a consequence of somebody’s actions or status and not simply of the fact of existence of a human being as such.

The next step of  the author is the exploration of traditional Africa and China. The author enters into polemics with African scientists who believe that traditional African societies have been maintaining and realizing human rights on the continent for a long time. The author’s point of view is that such claims confuse human rights with a limited form of government. Even when the Africans have the possibility of personal rights protection from the government’s infringement these rights are not based on humanism per se, but on various criteria: age, sex or social status. The recognition of human rights is not the way of traditional Africa and their application has never been important in political practice.

The Chinese language completely lacks the term “human rights” in modern interpretation of this word, because China is influenced by Confucian ideas and there is no need to use such provisions of international law. The traditional Chinese doctrine of human rights is fully expressed in the enumeration of “the rulers’” responsibility; this is an approach which is very far from the true understanding of the human rights concept. The article argues that there exists a striking similarity between the Chinese, African and Islamic approaches towards human rights which differs from the modern western concept.

The article devotes attention to the situation with human rights in the former USSR. The Soviet State declared all universal human rights but went no further. In fact, human rights were inseparable from responsibilities. This situation was codified in the Soviet Constitution and stemmed from the philosophical and ideological concept of the Soviet State. The author states that Soviet citizens had only those rights which were guaranteed by the State and could not be considered as “human rights” in the common sense of this word. For the further proof of this point of view the author considers the problem of individualism within the human rights theory. Human rights are inherent to individuals and are realized regarding the society, being as a rule based on the principle “individual in a state”. Here also the theory of “privileges” is viewed as a peculiar expression of human rights. Such development of the given theory may result in the destruction of the “human rights” concept in the societies where it prevails. The author concludes that the individual needs individual rights which are necessary for real protection of human rights.

In conclusion the author devotes attention to the problem of relevance of human rights for the whole humanity not touching on the economic and political differences in development. The lower is the level of social development of the society the greater is the need of an individual for real guarantees of human rights. The author believes that people should not be allowed to lose the practice of human rights, because it is equivalent to social regress for all mankind.


“Towards International Legal Regulation of the Right to Life” (Konstantin Akimenko)

The article “Towards International Legal Regulation of the Right to Life” is devoted to the issues of international legal regulations of the right to life.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 proclaimed the right to life. The international pact on civil and political rights of 1966 asserts that the right to life is an inalienable right of every individual and is protected by law. Nevertheless, being the most important one it is still the most vulnerable and violated one in modern world.

Prevention of both external and internal military conflicts is a part of the aspect of international legal protection of the right to life. It can be guaranteed by the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons and other means of mass destruction, prevention and suppression of genocide, combating terrorism in all its forms, prolongation of human life, fighting hard diseases, the oncological ones and AIDS in particular, and also infant mortality.

The article devotes special attention to the abolition of capital punishment in the light of provisions of the II Optional Protocol to the International Pact on civil and political rights of 1966, Protocol N 6 to the European Commission on the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms of 1950 and the activities of the UN Committee on human rights in this sphere. The article considers the main means of execution of capital verdicts in modern world. The author gives the analysis of criminal legislation of the Republic of Belarus regarding the issues of capital punishment and draws the conclusion about the necessity of the revision of a range of the articles of the Criminal Court of the Republic of Belarus which stipulate capital punishment.

The article broaches the medical aspects of the right to life: transplantation of human organs and tissues, medical experiments, euthanasia and abortions. This range of problems is almost undeveloped within the doctrine of international law. The author believes that capital punishment should remain as a measure deterring the growth of grave crimes; however, it should be abolished in the course of further moral and economic development of the society.

The author concludes that there is a necessity of universal respect and observation of human rights by the world community; with the right to life taking the priority.


“International Legal Principles of Environment Protection and Human Rights” (Sergey Balashenko)

The article “International Legal Principles of Environment Protection and Human Rights” tries to analyze the history of development of the legal basis of the principles of the international legal protection of environment. It also gives their systematization in 9 groups according to their legal and essential meaning:

The first group includes the principles which fix the priority of human rights for favourable environment and sustainable development. The second group of principles declares the sovereignty of states in natural resources utilization. The third group of principles describes the responsibility of citizens in the sphere of environment protection. Every person ought to act in accordance with the World Nature Charter provisions. The fourth group declares the liability for environment protection. The fifth group establishes priorities of natural resources utilization The sixth group consists of the principles (inter alia, principles 6, 7 of the Stockholm declaration) aimed at prevention of environmental pollution and other activities harmful for nature. The seventh group is the largest group of principles of environment protection which presupposes close and efficient international cooperation in the given sphere. The states cooperate in the spirit of global partnership in order to preserve, protect and restore the normal condition and integrity of the Earth ecosystem. The eighth group characterizes the principles which provide a right to information. Every person should have the appropriate access to information regarding environment which is available at national bodies, including information about dangerous materials and activities in their communities, and a possibility of participation in the process of decision-making. The ninth group establishes the responsibility for environment protection in case of military conflicts. The states must respect the international law which provides environmental protection during military conflicts and cooperate in its further development when necessary.


“The European Union Citizenship: Nonsense or Objective Regularity in International Law” (Yuri Lepeshkov)

The right to citizenship is one of the fundamental rights every individual is entitled to. The implicit content of this right presupposes a certain aggregate of mutual rights and obligations of the state, on the one hand, and the citizen, on the other.

One of the most interesting innovations envisaged by the Maastricht Treaty on the formation of the European Union which has come into force since 1.1.93 is establishing within the EU of a single European citizenship. From the juridicial point of view this legal institution is absolutely unique: the EU not only is not a state but it does not have the status of juridicial subject in international law either. Nevertheless, the Maastricht Treaty makes an explicit statement precisely about the citizenship of the EU. What is it: a certain (possibly accidental) political legal phenomenon which has not been known to international law before, or a sufficiently objective regularity, a result of extremely rapid integration processes within the interstate relations, a result of global reassessment of the role and place of individual within this system?

A detailed analysis  of the respective norms of the Maastrich Treaty shows three very specific peculiarities of the single European citizenship. First and foremost, it concerns such important component as the obligations of the citizens of the European Union, which (i.e. obligations) are not given concrete expression in the corresponding Section of the Maastrich Treaty regarding single European citizenship. Secondly, one special attention should be paid to the potentially dynamic character of the EU citizenship, which is confirmed by the absence of strict and finally defined list of the rights of EU citizen and also by the provision for the EU Council of Ministers to take certain measures aimed at strengthening of present rights and the development of new ones in addition to the latter. Thirdly, a characteristic feature is the fact that a EU citizenship does not substitute national citizenship being only additional to it.

This article attempts to study in detail and analyze the content and peculiarities of every right given to the EU citizen, in order to find out the real nature and essence of the single European citizenship. These rights are the following:

— a right to move freely and get residence on any territory of the EU;

— to participate in the elections as a voter and be nominated as a candidate at the municipal and the general European elections in the country of residence;

— to have the protection of diplomatic missions and consulates of every EU Member State when outside the EU;

— to appeal with petitions and claims to Europarliament in accordance with appropriate procedures.

As can be seen, this list is very limited. It obviously does not correspond to the volume of rights that is envisaged in the national constitution of the citizens. Moreover, the provisions of the Maastrich Treaty on EU citizenship have a rather general nature and do not give a concrete expression of the legal rights of separate groups of population such as women, the unemployed, pensioners, youth and the disabled.

In general, we can suppose that the authors of the Maastrich Treaty were guided most of all not by the well-known and universal legal structures during the development of the concept of the EU citizenship, but by their own beliefs and ideas that the very establishment of the single European citizenship will give a new impulse to international processes on the continent, will become an active driving force within the framework of the “self-renewing” Europe and provide guarantees of real protection of human rights and freedoms. In this connection, the establishment of the EU citizenship can in fact be regarded as a step which had rather political than legal meaning in the period of its completion.

The problem under consideration seems to be especially topical in light of the current integrational initiatives of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation aimed at, inter alia, the development and further implementation of the concept of the single citizenship of the Union of Belarus and Russia.


“The Emergence and Development of International Protection of the Rights of the Child” (Oleg Starovoitov)

International protection of the rights of the child is a system of coordinated activities of the state and non-governmental organizations aimed at the development and provision of the rights of the child in order to form an all-round developed individual, at their codification within the framework of national legislation and bringing international assistance to the children of the under-developed countries. The international protection is carried out in several directions: 1) developing declarations, resolutions and conventions aimed at the preparation of international standards in the sphere of protection of the right of the child; 2) establishing of a special monitoring agency for protection of the rights of the child;  3) assisting in adjustment of national legislation to international commitments (implementation activities); 4) humanitarian aid through UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The most resultative activities concern the norm development in the sphere of protection of the right of the child. They were carried out along two directions: 1) the codification of the rights of the child in general declarations and conventions on human rights or in international agreements, which regulate the rights of certain social groups, closely connected with the child (e. g. women rights) or, to some exent, the relations in the sphere of the family, labour law, education; 2) development of declarations and conventions which specially regulate the right of the child.

The Geneva declaration of the rights of the child of 1924 adopted by the League of  Nations laid down the beginning of the formation of international protection of the rights of the child. However, the final structure of international protection was formed within the EU framework after World War II. One of its underlying principles was the proclamation of respect for human rights and freedoms without any discrimination. Already in the first international legal instruments on human rights (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, international Covenants on human rights 1966), a number of provisions was formulated, closely connected with the rights and freedoms of the child. For the development of the measures of protection of the rights of the child a social commission and UNICEF were set up within the UN framework. Besides, specialized agencies related to the UN are also concerned with this problem. They are the International Labour Organization, World Health Organization and the UNESCO.

A special document completely devoted to the rights of the child, is the Declaration on the Rights of the Child adopted by the UN in 1959; it contains the principles on which any state policy providing for the rights of the child should be based. 1989 saw the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which summarized all the present experience of norms development and the new concepts concerning the protection of the rights of the child. The convention for the first time considers the child to be not only an object who requires special protection, but also as a subject of law who is entitled to the whole spectrum of human rights. Within the framework of the Convention the international Monitoring Committee on the Rights of the Child was established. It is authorized to consider periodical (once in 5 years)  reports on measures taken in order to implement the Provisions of the Convention.

On 27.06.90 the Republic of Belarus ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and thus committed itself to adjusting its legislation to the Convention. For this purpose the Republic has adopted the law on the Rights of the Child, the National Plan of Protection of the Rights of the Child and a number of other normative acts in order to protect the rights of the child. A National Commission on the Rights of the Child has been set up. Although the Republic of Belarus has adopted rather a big number of normative acts on protection of the rights and interests of children, the main drawback is the lack of the efficient mechanism of protection of the right of the child. The question about the establishment in the Republic of the post of ombudsman on the right of the child and juvenile courts is being considered at present.


“Convention on the Rights  of the Child —  Education for the 21th Century” (Alena Kroupova)

The  transition from the communist totalitarian rules to democracy and thus also the implementation of human rights to their full extent is a long and enormously difficult process which is unique in many respects because it is in fact taking place for the first time. The confrontation of the past with the future needs a compromise solution to be sought for the present.

The “post-communist” countries of Central and Eastern Europe — the Czech Republic among them — have taken the first steps towards democracy, but still have a long way to go to reach it. Not only the economic conditions are the obstacle but particularly the psychic and behavioural characteristics that citizens adopted during the period of the totalitarian regime. The behaviour of the majority of them is far from that of the independent, tolerant and cooperative citizens. Besides that, their way to democracy is coming up against newly emerging or previously neglected problems — many of them had not been expected.

The former CSFR, which has split in to the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic by the end of 1992, was one of the first Central European countries which ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Therefore the Czech Republic — since the beginning of 1993 — became a party of this Convention and undertook the obligations of the partners. Even in the past this country ranked among those where priority of children’s interests was declared in the Constitution, in the Family Act and in social regulations. Yet, the true human rights of children, support for the development of the child as an autonomous individual possessing full rights and freedoms were practiced only to a considerably limited extent.

The new Czech Government was convinced that safeguarding the rights of children as well as their protection declared in the UN Convention would not raise any problems because even in the past care for children enjoyed preference. The essential question, i. e. the position of the child as the subject of the law or the subject of the educational process mostly was not raised at all.

The compromise political solutions in the transitional period result sometimes in grossly simplified legal procedures. And these may — and indeed in many cases do — produce new inequities which affect negatively the status and position of children, too. Its no wonder that the UN Convention, in spite of its holistic approach, fails to cover this kind of cases.

Within this framework, there are two objectives for this paper:

1) to present information about the analysis of some of those problems in the Czech Republic which newly affect the life of children and the implementation of the signed UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in the daily practice. These problems exist whereby the country is forced to resolve problems pertaining in economic, ecologic, legislative or social sphere and when new problems in the fied of health care are on the rise.

2) to point out that the Convention on the Rights of the Child because of its synthetic characteristic can be usedor human rights education purposes not only as one of the documents of the international law, but also as a living material for discussion among children and their tutors. We have in mind those kinds of discussions that should lead to the finding of the way for all of us to feel free, equal and self-conscious citizens of our Planet.

1. New problems in the process of changes

1.1. Changing social welfare impact

In the sphere of human rights and their implementation, the past situation of the Czech Republic was characterized by the suppression of political and civic rights and freedoms. This was “counter-balanced” by the emphasis on egalitarian policies in the area of social welfare, particularly in the form of assistance to mothers taking care of small children.

In fact, all those measures and regulations supported primarily women’s employment. The number of children was a factor determining female retirement age and the number of years of employment required for the pension claim. Social as well as labour market legal norms not only encouraged women to work but simultaneously formed the legal basis for the duty to work practically throughout one’s working age i.e. the period from compulsory person’s vocational training or school education (15 years age at earliest) until reaching the retirement age (53—57 years of age for women, 60 for men).

In the new situation, when voluntary care for household and children is not the reason for a person’s punishment, the former social assistance measures put women at a disadvantage. Unfortunately, up to now there is not governmental family policy able to promote equal status of women.

1.2. Changing role of social legislation

The period of transition to market economy is characterized inter alia by the fact that former social measures and legal norms and their not yet finished innovation negatively affect labour market, particularly the position of young women. Some of those problems were expected but their profundity and extent were underestimated. This is true above all what concerns the increasing unemployment of well skilled women. Female workers “aggravated” by the — up to now — valid social welfare protection, e.g. paid maternity leave up to three years of the child, are not able to compete equally as their male collegues in the labour market.

This natural development in the labour market is not yet accompanied by the appropriate social legislation. The only visible provision is the curtailment of flat-rate financial contributions to families with small children and destruction of the system of subsidized preschool and child-care facilities. This development confronts citizens with problems for which they are not prepared and which in some regions create social tension. Unfortunately, theassistance of non-profit organizations, NGOs or trade-unions in this sphere is not yet effective, and the increasing shortage of appropriate preschool facilities practically sets women with small children outside the skilled employment.

1.3. Changing value of professional skills

In the past for both, boys and girls, school education emphasized their role as members of labour force, i. e. as workers and employees. It is no wonder, that this situation substantially affected — particularly women’s — scale of values. This concept of the educational policy was accompanied with the general phenomenon in the Central and Eastern Europe’s way of life, i. e. that women had children at a younger age than their Western European counterparts. This often resulted in women being faced with the situation where raising small children fell to the same period as the need to concentrate on the development of occupational and professional skills. Such situation only reinforced the importance of providing adequate and cheap child-care facilities.

Two earners income was for the former way of life in the prevailing number of the Czech families the necessity. Therefore, women very often resigned the higher education and prefered the low skilled job located in the neighbourhood of the preschool facility, i. e. women’s ability to make use of their higher professional skills strongly corresponded to the presence or absence of a small child in the family. There are the findings of several surveys which underline that women really conceived employment outside the household as an economic necessity to ensure the appropriate standard of living for the family as the family, i. e. the children ranked first and foremost about their interest. During the last four years this situation has been slowly changing. There is a visible decline of newly born children, particularly of 20-year old mothers.

1.4. Underestimation of education for democracy

Another new unenvisaged problem is a gap between the proclaimed political will for human rights protection e. g. demonstrated by the ratification of all principal international covenants and the practical governmental policies neglecting education for democracy, human rights, tolerance and international understanding as well as acknowledgement of the legal status of non-governmental organizations in the democratic society.

The totalitarian regime proclaimed economic, social and cultural rights as the fundamental ones which should be put above the political and civic rights, i. e. equality being put above freedom. This official policy caused the priority of material aspects — even where the values of rights and freedoms were concerned — in the minds of people. Human rights thus come to mean the Western way of life, i. e. the high material standard of living. In a special case of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, its provision regarding the right of the child to an appropriate standard of living are perceived not as necessary complement of the fundamental human rights but as an aspiration to material property irrespective of personal responsibility for one’s fate and of rights and possibilities the others.

This deformed way of thinking requests special approach to education for democracy, tolerance, human rights and international understanding. First of all, the new concept of teachers training should implement democratic teaching methods.

1.5. Persisting lack of legal consciousness

In the past, lack of legal consciousness was the typical aspect of people’s behaviour. The profundity of this educational aspect was underestimated. It is not only the widespread ignorance of basic legal norms, due to their practical inaccessibility to and the poor comprehension of the ordinary man, but indeed downright disparagement of the significance of legal norms for the existence and development of the democratic society. That together with the deformation of people’s minds and the former long-term authoritative educational practice leads often to the preference of traditional authoritative attitudes in many spheres of the daily life.

Besides, peoples experience with the concept of right and having right to causes right to be seen as a claim or aspiration to something, without making it clear that rights involve also responsibility which prevents them from infringing upon the equal rights of one’s neighbours.

It is the real unpreparedness for freedom, the speed of changes in past four years, the fact that things develop often contrary to expectations that results sometimes in social confrontation and extensive ethnic and national conflicts.

2. Education for 21st century

2.1. School education for democracy, tolerance and human rights

What concerns education, the Czech Republic has not yet carried out a comprehen­sive legal reform or articulated its overall concept of the State role in the educational sector. However, many substantial changes are coming. It should be also noted that any established educational system undergoing fundamental change encounters numerous forms of inertia — new opportunities cannot be all seized at the same time, not every experiment can be a major success, and also many teachers find it difficult to break with the long-term practice in both contents and methods.

Even if it cannot be said that the changes already realized and the proposals already presented for the reform of the education system are consistently applying the approach to the child as an active self-conscious subject of the education process — as set in the Convention on the Rights of the Child — changes in the contents, methods, and means of education are poiting in this direction.

Education of national minority group children is provided either in standard schools on the basis of Czech as the teaching medium and the language of respective minority taught as an optional subject (German, Slovak),or through separate classes in standard schools or through independent schools. This is the case with Polish schools which are operated in North Moravia, where these schools (pre-school facilities, basic primary and middle schools, secondary schools) were in the previous year attended by some 10,000 children.

The problem of appropriate school education for Romany children is not yet solved. In 1991, Romanies gained the legal status of national minority. Romany language, unfortunately, does not yet exist in the written form and therefore Romany children in the first grade of primary school remain disadvantaged. They very often leave the standard school and continue in the special education. Alternative education is not yet frequent.

Special education for handicapped children is provided in the Czech Republic at all levels — from pre-secondary general, technical, or vocational education. The content and methods of this type of education are differentiated by the type of handicap — deafness, sight handicap, physical handicap, multiple handicaps, mental retardation, behavioural disorders and learning difficulties. About 3,4 per cent of all children under 18 attended such special education schools or facilities in the year 1993.

Currently there is a strong movement favouring the integration of handicapped children into standard schools. The legal prerequisites for this have already been created. The main obstacles to practical implementation of such integration are not only the lack of appropriate technical equipment and architectural deterrents, but also the inadequate preparedness for this change on the part of parents (of both healthy and handicapped children), the general public, and teachers. The practice of separating handicapped children from others is still deeply ingrained. The implementation of alternative solutions — such as special or remedial classes in ordinary schools, different length of stay (selected hours), all day medical care should help to promote the further integration of handicapped children into the mainstream of the education system.

A school education system which corresponds to the understanding of human rights and should follow the democratic example whereby sensible and reasonable discussion, based on respect for the individual, equality and freedom, should form the basis of classroom methodology. Understandably, such discussion can function efficiently within the framework of human rights implementation which means, however, certain personal restrictions on expression and behaviour.

2.2. Educational role of the family

Speaking about children’s education, we cannot forget the educational influence of the family. It is the family which is the first to shape or suppress the value of human dignity, mutual respect, as well as the awareness of civic, family and individual identity and the ideas of the way an individual should organize his life. As such, it is also the micro society where the first application or violation of human rights and the shaping forming of democratic or undemocratic attitudes takes place.

When analysing the present state of the family in the post-totalitarian country, a clear distinction is mostly not possible to make between the general trends of modern society and the specific phenomena in family and social relations which are the products of the communist system. The cognitive insufficiency results inter alia in — sometimes officially proclaimed — tendency to return to the traditional patriarchal family model. Restoration of the democratic, educational, emotional values of the family in the life of the individual as of the society seems to be an urgent challenge of civic associations and non­governmental organizations in all post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe in the next period.

2.3. Convention on the Rights of the Child as the basis for education for the 21st century

Within the PHARE Democracy Programme project “Towards Human Rights Education” the brief analysis of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as a fundamental document for human rights teaching, learning and training was finished. This analysis should be used as the teaching aid both for teachers and for students helping them to understand human rights, human duties and responsibilities.

The abstracts of the analysis could be referred to as follows: The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the UN Assembly on 20th November 1989. Therefore it is not only in compliance with its subject (children from 0 years of age to 18 years) but also due to its own “age” the youngest in the line of principal international documents in the sphere of human rights. Up to the year 1993 the Convention was ratified by 174 UN member states, which is a substantially larger number than which had been reached in cases of other international documents on human rights. In Europe there does not exist a single state that did not join this Convention.

Some of the principal characteristics of the Convention on the Rights of the Child partly differ and some are identical with other international treaties.

The unique positive characteristic of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which differs from other human rights conventions is without doubt its holistic approach to the rights of the child. It forms a complex of civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights in connection with the preservation of human dignity of the child.

Therefore the document is not only general but at the same time specific — concentrating on a concrete social group. It is also a Convention on the protection of the rights of groups i. e. children and a Convention against their discrimination. All the rights in the Convention are on the same level — none has a more important place than others. (A similar endeavour can be seen in the approach of the European Convention on Human Rights, but its contents and range remain less complementary.)

The further list of contents demonstrates that the Convention on the Rights of the Child covers all aspects which have till now been globally known in the sphere of human rights protection.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child protects rights to:

— life, survival and development

— a name, nationality and an identity

— liberty and security of person

— not to be abused and tortured

— not to become a slave

— human dignity

— help and protection of national and international law

— a fair and public hearing at courts

— privacy of home and correspondence

— protection in unlawful attack of honour and reputation

— education

— leisure, play, artistic and cultural activities

— own property

— adequate living standard

— marry and found a family

— participation in civic life

and these fundamental freedoms:

— freedom of thought, conscience and religious belief

— freedom of opinion and expression

— freedom of peaceful assembly

— freedom of movement and residence

As can be seen from the former list the child in this Convention is an active subject, i. e. a citizen who has rights in all spheres and at all levels which concern him. Above that, there a new aspect: the right of the child to grow up in a family, which is considered as the most natural environment for the child’s harmonic development and well-being.

The Convention cannot cover all the changes which occur in families nowaday and which often negatively affect children’s lives. Therefore the ratification of the Convention poses a big social responsibility for States (Governments) for the life of children, i. e. inter alia to guarantee appropriate living conditions for families with children (even if such an obligation is not an explicit part of the Convention). In the faremost consequences all UN member states which became party of this Convention — without reservation of the described article — should revise their policies and programmes in all spheres concerning chidren and families. Even newly adopted social measures which concern families with children, if they are to be in compliance with the obligations ratified in the Convention, should be judged according to their effect on the life of children.

Nevertheless even the holistic conception of the rights and freedoms of the child anchored in the Convention shows some unclear aspects in practical application. The most urgent tasks for all national legislations are those which emerge from the definition of the child as a “human being from the age of 0 years to 18 years”.

It is understandable that many rights and freedoms of children without the closer specification of the children’s age group remain only on paper. However, direct admission of rights and freedoms for a concrete age group is not possible in this kind of international document. This was also one of the conclusions of the discussion among the experts of the Council of Europe. Therefore they recommended not to continue drafting a special European Convention on the Rights of the Child. Instead of that the Council of Europe tries to formulate the principles of obligatory national policies for the welfare of children. These policies should cover even the changing situations in families that endanger children and assure conditions for solving conflicts in favour of children.

Finally, a big problem for the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of Child in daily practice is the absence of the explicitly stressed responsibility of children to exercise their rights so that they do not infringe on the rights and freedoms of other people. Although this aspect is common in promoting human rights through all international covenants, children’s ability of understanding their rights and freedoms as their rights and duties is particularly limited in the European region (due to the traditional paternalistic understanding care for children in this part of the world).

The challenge of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is to help parents and educators to educate children as self-conscious, tolerant, responsible and sovereign citizens of the world of 21st century. The involvement to assist this positive process is an honest task for each of us.


“Is the Refugee a Law Offender?” (Larisa Vassilieva)

The article “Is the Refugee a Law Offender?” considers an important problem concerning the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers on the territory of the Republic of Belarus.

The government of the Republic of Belarus takes measures in order to perfect the legislation what concerns the solution of social and economic issues, security provision to this category of migrants on the basis of humanitarian principles of international law and taking into consideration the standards recommended by the international norms of treatment of the given individuals. However, some problems of illegal and forced migration remain unsolved (e. g. definition and eviction of illegal migrants, control of the refugee’s residence...).

The selection of measures of state influence in the sphere of uncontrolled migration mostly depends on the evaluation of the impact of any migrational flow on national security and social order.

The level of individual responsibility of migrants in such cases is determined not only by the influence of the migrational flow on the interests safeguarded by law, but it also depends on a number of other factors: the reasons which caused people to cross borders, the means of crossing, the aims of coming and, in some cases, further behavior in the country of residence.

Although the activities of illegal and forced migrants — crossing of the state border, illegal residence on the territory of the republic — seem to be similar and are not authorized by the authorities of the Republic of Belarus, the evaluation of the given violations from the point of view of punishment is directly opposite.

It is this particular question that is discussed by the author. The summarized work gives a comparative legal analysis of the activities of the migrant and the basis of the provisions of international and national legislation norms. The article deepens the content of the notions: “an illegal migrant”, “a forced migrant” and presents a list of mutual rights and responsibilities of states and the individuals who fall under the refugee status during the residence of the latter on the territory of our country; it also gives a definition of the position of national bodies of the Republic of Belarus towards the evaluation of the actions of these individuals in the light of national migration policy.


“Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus Activities on Protection of Citizens’ Rights and Freedoms” (Grigory Vasilevich)

The problem of securing the citizens’ rights and liberties in the Republic of Belarus is analyzed in the article.The role of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus in protection of rights and liberties and maintenance of constitutionality in the country is also shown .

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus is bringing less Judgments than other courts (general or economic), but its Judgments affect thousands and thousands of people at a time, and often have crucial meaning. Because of the Judgments of the Constitutional Court the judicial system is constantly improving, and this makes it possible the approach the international standards, more fully guarantee the rights and freedoms of the concrete person and citizen. For example, while examining the constitutionality of the acts which regulate the procedure of purchase and sale of flats (houses) in the Republic, the Constitutional Court abolished the existing limitations of rights of citizens of Belarus, and also of other persons who reside in our country. According to the other Judgment the inviolability of the rule of the retrospective effect of the law in the case if this law is softening or defeating liability for the committed infringement was justified.

In accordance with other Judgments of the Constitutional Court the right of the citizens for the judicial review of the legality of the administrative detention, personal search, inspection of belongings and withdrawal of belongings and documents was secured. Before that there was, unfortunately, no possibilities for the judicial protection.

Practically in every Judgment the Constitutional Court is making references to the international legal acts, which facilitate the improvement of the civilized relationships between person and state.

The article stresses the necessity of absolute implementation of the requirements of Article 112 of the Constitution; the proposal is made to expand the rule secured in it to include also international agreements ratified by the Republic of Belarus with the intention to secure its supremacy towards the other constitutional acts .

Acting legislation also needs to be improved. It is necessary to correct Article 35 of the Law “On Public Prosecution” taking into account that control over constitutionality of the enforceable enactments in the republic is executed only by the Constitutional Court.


“Civil and Human Rights Codification in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus” (Vladimir Kivel)

Civil and human rights is the most important institution of constitutional law. Its special development in the spheres of both internal and international law took place in the second part of the XXth  century and is one of the most significant results of the mankind’s legal development. Being the indicator of the correspondence of political and legal system of the state to modern international standards, it is called upon to provide secure and dignified human life and the possibility of a person’s free activities in the complicated conditions of modern society.

The norms, which guarantee the human rights adopted by the international law as the basic ones, in the international legislation are relevant first of all to the constitutional level, that is why the subject of this study is first of all the constitution of 1994 (with amendments and alterations of 24.10.96).

The adoption of the 1994 Constitution of the Republic of Belarus was preceded by the renewal of the social order and the beginning of economic transition to the market system , the admission of various property forms, pluralism development, realization of power by people, the growth of security level and the enhancement of cooperation with international community. In science it was characterized by transition from the marxist concept to the universal concept of human rights. The constitution is in principle a new document in which the humane orientation of the development of our society is fixed.

Priority is given to personal and universal values. This is a characteristic feature of the new concept of human rights which shows the rejection of the priority of state interests over those of an individual inherent in socialist theory.

A classification of basic rights and freedoms of citizens, fixed earlier in Chapter 5 and Article 37 of the BSSR Constitution of 1978 is mostly retained in the 1994 Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. However, the sequence of their presentation has changed: individual rights and freedoms of a citizen, political rights and freedoms, social economic rights. The Chapter “Equality of Citizens” was deleted. Such a classification allowed to cover all kinds of rights and freedoms of citizens. The fact that human rights and freedoms were given the first place underlines the application of the concept of natural human rights to the activities of our state.

For the first time the provision on the priority of the universally recognized principles of international law and adjustment of national legislation to it was fixed in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.

The Soviet state regarded the sphere of human rights to be completely internal. The intervention of international organizations into this sphere was prohibited. In practice no activities were permitted which were  connected with monitoring on the territory of the USSR of how the international law norms were applied: the right to appeal to international organizations for the human rights enforcement and protection, the right to form social organizations to protect these rights. The given principle was to a great extent realized in the 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation. The constitution of our country in its Article 59 gives a general formulation:

“A state should take all possible measures for the establishment of internal and international order necessary for full realization of rights and freedoms of citizens of the Republic of Belarus envisaged by the Constitution.”

More than a half of the articles of the Constitution of our country are devoted to the definition of the legal status of an individual and a citizen. These articles are concentrated in Section 2 “Individual, Society, State”, separate articles are in Section 1 “Constitutional Order Basis”, Section 3 “The Election System. Referendum”,  Section 6 “The Court” and Section 5 “Regional Administration” and self Government”.

“To guarantee” is one of the most important constitutionally declared principles, which have received legal realization in different forms both as a general basis, which presupposes realization in full of the whole volume of rights and human freedoms and by means of codification of concrete guarantees of every right and freedom as such.

The state is the main subject on which the guarantees of rights and freedoms are placed. In contrast to the Constitution of the Russian Federation the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus does not indicate directly the role of the state as a main guarantor of human rights and freedoms, however, this role stems from a number of the articles of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus (6, 10, 60, etc.).

For the first time ever the citizens of the Republic of Belarus, numbering no less than 50 thousand people, obtained the right of legislative initiative (Article 99).

In accordance with the juridical content of political rights and freedoms, citizens have a right to the demand from state the execution of its obligations fixed in the Constitution. However, in the Republic of Belarus there is no integrated legal mechanism which  should regulate the legal procedure of realization of political rights and freedoms. And this is very important for widening of the forms of the people’s  realization of power.

Social economic rights represent a separate group of basic rights in the Constitution. They include the right to work, the right to rest and leisure, the property right, the right to health care including free medical treatment in the state-owned health care establishments, the right to favourable environment, etc.

The lack in the Constitution of the provision, fixing the function of the office of Republic Prosecutor concerning the sphere of human rights protection, can be regarded as a drawback in the system of constitutional guarantees.

In conclusion it is necessary to note that in general the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus codifies all provisions of the International legal acts concerning legal status of the individual.


“The Internal State Mechanism of Human Rights Protection (Foreign and Home Experience)” (Yulia Minchenkova)

On ratifying any international Treaty in the sphere of human rights a state is binding itself to discharge the obligations it contains in, it includes their  provisions in its legislation; that is why the universal standards and norms in the sphere of human rights are reflected in the national legislation of many states.

However, the presence of specific human rights protection measures in national legislation does not always presuppose the respect and enforcement of such rights. It is also necessary to have legal mechanisms and institutions which would guarantee their efficient realization and protection in case of violation.

The modernization of the current system of legal means of individual rights protection is an important issue in the Republic of Belarus. The traditional legal protection mechanisms  such as the procurator’s office supervision, court defence, etc. cannot guarantee full protection of human rights and freedoms. It is necessary to establish new efficient legal instruments.

Most of the present national institutions in this sphere can be divided into two big categories: commissions on human rights and ombudsmen.

The article analyzes the experience of these public legal means of human rights protection. They are only subsidiary means of legal protection to the state legal mechanism.

For Belarus the questions of legal protection of human rights are very topical. The development of the legal basis has already started. The article gives a general view on the draft of the law of the Republic of Belarus “On Ombudsman”. The article also considers the necessity of constitutional codification of the ombudsman institution which could contribute to the development of democratic processes, aimed at further strengthening of the status of the individual and the guarantees of implementation of human and civil rights and freedoms.

It is to be hoped that a specialized body on human rights issues will spearhead this important sphere. Such an agency can make a great contribution to the strengthening of citizens’ protection and the formation of social culture in the spirit of the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.


“UNHCR Activities and Human Rights” (Vitaly Maslovsky)

The article “UNHCR Activities and Human Rights” provides brief information about the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the basic international instruments in the field of the rights of refugees, namely, the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Protocol to the Convention of 1967.

The Convention contains the definition of refugee and stipulates basic rights of  refugees, including the fundamental right to be protected against deportation to the country of persecution. The 1967 Protocol has expanded the scope of the Convention to who became refugees after January 1, 1951 and removed geographical limitations from the refugee definition.

The obvious connection between UNHCR activities and human rights can be confirmed by the analysis of the refugee definition contained in the 1951 Convention. The “prosecution” means “non-observance of the basic human rights in the country of origin of a refugee. The recognition of the refugee status is equal to the acknowledgement of the serious threat to human rights in the state of origin.

The UNHCR activities on protection of the refugees are a component of efforts of international community directed to the provision of respect of human rights. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees protects the rights of a special group of  people. Moreover, UNHCR, as the division of the United Nations is guided by its Charter that declares promotion of respect to human rights to be an objective of the Organisation.

The basis of international refuge protection is the protection against compulsory return to the country where the person is threatened by persecution. The most vivid example of the connection between the work of UNHCR and prevention of grave infringements of human rights is the activities aimed at ensuring non-refoulement (protection against such return).

There are three durable solutions to the refugee problem: voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement to a third country. And each of them is connected to the necessity of an assessment of the human rights situation in the respective countries. While implementing repatriation UNHCR not only ensures that the decision to return is voluntary, but also monitors the observation of the returnees’ rights, as well as works on restoration of a destroyed infrastructure. These activities allow to prevent new forcible displacement and also enable to enjoy social,  economic and cultural rights without excessive burden to the limited resources of the post-conflict countries. This support does not substitute the activities of international agencies on development, but rather renders the most basic assistance in the situation when the conditions in the country do not yet allow to begin or to renew the work of these organisations.

One may put the question of a balance between the humanitarian work of UNHCR on protection of refugees, and the activities on protection of human rights, which is frequently considered as politically affiliated. The answer to the given question is  that, at first, the international standards and obligations in the field of human rights are equal for all countries irrespective of ideology of the respective governments. At second, the appropriate obligations are specially taken by the states through the respective international instruments, and the request to observe human rights is not a political one and simply refers to the need to carry out the accepted obligations.

The impartial and consecutive application of norms in the field of human rights irrespective of political convictions of the refugee and ideological position of this or that country is the means to emphasise neutral and humanitarian character of the UNHCR activities.

The international human rights law can render essential assistance to work of UNHCR on protection of refugees. The basic instruments in the field of human rights, being ratified by the majority of states, have more universal character, than the provisions of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Besides, the human rights law has wider sphere of application, and when the international refugee law is applied at the level of  recommendations (for instance,  conclusions of the UNHCR Executive Committee), the former is based on the international instruments, universal or regional.

The control mechanisms established in some international human rights instruments have special importance for UNHCR activities on protection of refugees. These bodies not only interpret the norms of the appropriate instruments, but also consider claims on an infringement of states’ obligations, including individual complaints. In some cases the submission of such complaints is the effective mechanism of protection of the refugees. For example, the European Commission on Human Rights accepts the complaints on infringement of Article 3 of the European Convention 1950 on Human Rights and basic freedoms (the prohibition to subject a person to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or  punishment), when states make a decision to deport a foreigner to the country where he or she is at risk to undergo the actions forbidden by the given Article. If such complaint is accepted for consideration the implementation of  the deportation procedure is usually suspended.

UNHCR also cooperates with the human rights bodies of the United Nations, for instance, the Commission on Human Rights, established by the Economic and Social Council, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The activities of Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees are a component of the work of the United Nations in the field of human rights. The efforts of UNHCR on  international protection and search of durable solutions to the  problem of refugees are aimed at the  achievement of one of the objectives of the United Nations — promoting and encouraging respect for human rights. 


“United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Mission and its Further Activities in the Republic of Belarus in the Field of Protection of the Rights of the Child” (Galina Leonova)

Human rights play an essential role in the life of every person since early childhood. The respect of human rights and freedoms shall be viewed as a vital contribution to the development of the society.

20 November 1998 the General Assembly passed the Convention on the Rights of the Child which has proved to be the first international document stipulating the whole range of the rights of the child.

Some background information and UNICEF approach to the countries of the region. UNICEF Regional Directorate for Eastern Europe, CIS and Baltic countries has been implementing its programme in this part of the world since 1990. UNICEF activities are aimed to counter political, social and economical challenges of transition period.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by all countries of the region, is a legitimate basis for UNICEF co-operation framework with the Government, NGOs and other potential partners. It has been decided that UNICEF should focus on legislative reform and should regard collection of the data on the situation with children as a vital tool for co-operation with the governments. The overall objective is to promote such an approach when priority consideration is given to the interests and problems of the children.

Given the situation in the country, UNICEF believes that it should assist the Belarusian Government in implementing its commitments concerning the Convention. Having joined the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, Belarus declared its commitment to bring the national legislation into correspondence with the provisions of the Convention. This would involve the development and implementation of the programmes aimed at the promotion of  the Convention.

It should be noted that since early 90s Belarus has been very active in developing the legislation. In 1993 Belarus was the first former USSR country that passed the Law “On the Rights of the Child”. This Law became the national declaration of the rights of the child. However, Belarus has not yet established the state policy mechanism in the field of the protection and implementation of the statutory interests of the children.

UNICEF Office started its work in Belarus in March 1997. UNICEF Office is implementing the joint projects with the Government and NGOs under the framework of the three major programmes: “Children of Chernobyl”, “Dissemination of the Knowledge on the Rights of the Child” and “Young People Health and Development”.

The Programme “Young People Health and Development” is aimed at the protection of  children and adolescents from various risk factors. The special emphasis is made on the project “Children in Foster Family”.

Transition challenges have negatively affected the children and their well-being. The living standards of many families are very low thus making it very hard for the parents to take a good care of their children. The number of social orphans tends to increase: in 1997 there were 25 thousand children left without parental care versus 11,2 thousand in 1990. Supporting the social policy of the country on family problems prevention, in 1998 UNICEF launched the programme “Children in need of special care”.

In 1997 children below eighteen years of age committed 9990 crimes which is 18,8% higher than in 1992.  In difficult circumstances the children from families-at-risk either commit crimes themselves or become the victims of crimes. So far Belarus does not have a system for delivery of  social and psychological services to children who need special care.

Court system would also need improvement. Deprivation of liberty proves to be a prevailing sentence: in 1997 90,3% of all convicted children were sentenced to the deprivation of liberty in closed custodial settings. The data suggest that Belarus is lacking the comprehensive system for co-ordinating the policy and efforts of the Government and NGOs in the field in juvenile crime prevention.

It has been mentioned above that UNICEF activities are aimed to counter political, social and economical challenges of transition period. The international community pays a lot of attention to juvenile justice. The UN General Assembly has passed the whole range of the relevant documents. “Beijing Rules” , for example, appeal to all member countries to ensure favourable environment for the development of a child thus minimising the risk of juvenile crime. At the same time “Beijing Rules” stress that juvenile justice should become an integral part of the national development of the country. In this respect it is quite clear why the Committee on the Rights of the Child is so concerned that the national justice system does not correspond to the principles and provisions of the Convention. Besides, Belarus does not have a proper juvenile justice system. The 1992 Concept of Legal Reform envisaged the establishment of special courts dealing with children’s cases. However, those courts have not been established yet and so far “juvenile justice” is not an official legal concept. It’s obvious that such state policy would not correspond to the international commitments of the country.

Since UNICEF plays an important role in assisting the governments in promoting the Convention, Belarus would also need assistance in the development and administration of juvenile justice system that would meet the international legal standards.

The efficient policy in the best interests of children should be based upon profound understanding of the real situation of children and their needs. It’s obvious that the country is unable to fulfil its international commitments unless there’s an independent mechanism for the protection of the rights of the children. The objective is to establish an institution which could protect the interests of the children and evaluate the state policy at the same time. This institution should also be a reliable source of information concerning the situation with children.

2 July 1998 UNICEF Office jointly with the National Commission of the Rights of the Child held a round table on the potential establishment of an Ombudsman in Belarus. In the course of discussion the majority of participants supported the idea.

In its further activities UNICEF will continue assisting the Belarusian Government in evaluating the situation with the respect of the rights of the children. UNICEF Office in Belarus will also assist in drafting reports on the implementation of the Convention. We believe that through the support of reports’ drafting process, UNICEF will foster better respect of the rights of the children and will encourage the decisions that could significantly improve the real situation with children.


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