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Belarus: Minister Says Human Rights Are Respected

Crans-Montana, Switzerland; 27 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - The deputy foreign minister of Belarus, Sergei Martynov, has told an international business conference in Switzerland that his government respects human rights and is striving to meet international standards.

Martynov told the meeting in the mountain resort of Crans-Montana that freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press are respected in Belarus. He commented yesterday in response to a question after a presentation urging United States and European businessmen to invest in Belarus.

He acknowledged that there was room for improvement in the human rights situation. Martynov said Belarus is not perfect and has the legacy of the Soviet Union to overcome. But he said Belarus is a democratic society and is working in good faith with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe and other bodies to improve the situation.

Martynov did not mention a highly critical report by an OSCE expert published last month. The report found that virtually no freedom of assembly remained in Belarus and freedom of the press was limited. The report said there was every indication that the authorities were constructing a system of totalitarian government. The OSCE is now negotiating with Belarus on creating a permanent mission in Minsk to help develop democracy and democratic institutions.

The Crans-Montana meeting, which continues through the weekend, is an annual forum which brings together government ministers and potential investors. This year's program is focused largely on the Middle East.