Member states: Human rights concerns
Belarus:President since 1994, Alexander Lukashenko is seen as Europe’s last dictator. Belarus still has the death penalty.
Horrific torture is carried out in prisons. A British-embassy-commissioned report said two prisoners were boiled to death in 2002. Children are
forced to work during the cotton harvest while, in 2005, hundreds of protesters were shot dead by government forces.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev has ruled for 21 years and deals brutally with any opposition. Last year, 16 striking oil workers were killed during clashes with police.
Few improvements have been reported since the death in 2006 of president Saparmurat Niyazov, though bans on circuses and operas have been reversed.
It is still considered one of the most repressive states in the world.
The trial of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is seen as politically motivated and indicates a slide towards repression.
the latest in a string of repressive moves saw non-governmental organisations forced to register as “foreign agents” if they receive any funding from abroad.