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Belarus: U.S. Criticizes President For Abuse Of Power

Warsaw, 24 November 1997 (RFE/RL) - A member of the U.S. delegation at an international conference on human rights yesterday criticized president of Belarus Alyaksandr Lukashenka for abuse of power and failure to respect the rule of law.

Bruce Neuling said at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference in Warsaw that President Lukashenka imposed during the last three years control over all public institutions in the country through an authoritarian system of government. "As the authoritarian practices escalated, respect for the rule of law has eroded," Neuling said. "For all practical purposes, the government now operates by decree." Belarus has been a target of criticism by the OSCE review conference on human rights which started in Warsaw on November 12 and is scheduled to end later this week (Nov. 28). Earlier the authorities of Belarus were criticized at the conference for failing to guarantee freedoms of the press, speech and assembly. The Belarus authorities were also charged with discrimination of national minorities.

Neuling said further that in many other OSCE countries, particularly those making a transition from communism, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary is not yet secure. Neuling noted, for example, that law is being manipulated by the Russian authorities which often use it against the critics of the ruling officials down the provinces. He said that on several occasions, persons who had been involved in legal cases against local authorities found themselves charged with a variety of civil cases. One of these cases dealt with a human rights activist identified as Alexander Nikitin, who was charged with "espionage" for exposing environmental dangers caused by the Russian Navy. Neuling also gave examples of Croatia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan as the countries where the judiciary is subject to outside political influences. In other countries, such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, insufficient post-communist reforms of the judicial system have fostered a climate where corruption can flourish, Neuling said.