Declaration on the situation of human rights in Belarus
I would like to make this statement on behalf of the following 37 countries: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania , Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and my own country, Denmark.
In the face of massive, systematic and brutal violence that followed the 2020 presidential election in Belarus, 17 OSCE participating States invoked the OSCE Moscow Mechanism to investigate serious human rights violations and fundamental freedoms in Belarus.
In his report under the Moscow MechanismThe rapporteur, Professor Wolfgang Benedek, concluded that there was overwhelming evidence that the Belarusian presidential election of August 9, 2020 was fraudulent and that Belarusian security forces had committed massive and systematic human rights violations and fundamental freedoms.
The report states that the period immediately following the elections “must be characterized as a period of systematic torture and ill-treatment” by the security forces against peaceful demonstrators.
Seven months after Professor Benedek’s factual account, and more than nine months after the fraudulent presidential election, we note with deep concern that the same systemic violations and abuses persist unabated. The number of political prisoners and detainees continues to increase, with members of the free media being particularly targeted.
According to human rights organizations, there are currently nearly 400 political prisoners in Belarus. According to the Belarusian Prosecutor’s Office, since August 2020, more than 3,000 criminal proceedings have been initiated for violating the procedure for holding mass events and demonstrations. In April 2021 alone, courts handed down convictions against at least 98 people in politically motivated criminal cases.
We note with particular concern that human rights organizations have reported numerous credible allegations of heinous treatment of prisoners, including torture. This appears to reflect a deliberate decision by the authorities to create a climate of fear, with the aim of silencing victims and witnesses.
On several occasions in recent months, we have called on Belarus to end these acts of violence, to protect the victims and to ensure the safety of all individuals without discrimination. We have repeatedly called on Belarus to conduct prompt, effective and thorough investigations into all reports of human rights violations and abuses to ensure that anyone responsible or accomplice is held to account. .
We have invited Belarus, and we renew this invitation now, to keep the Council informed of the progress of any investigation that may have been initiated.
Faced with these credible accusations, the various responses provided by Belarus to the Permanent Council in recent months have been unsatisfactory and not very credible. Belarus has denied reports from multiple, independent and reliable sources such as international organizations, journalists and civil society and accused us of interfering in its internal affairs.
At the same time, pressure against civil society, human rights organizations, journalists and national minorities in Belarus continues unabated and, in some cases, has increased considerably. Representatives of these organizations face political detentions, interrogations and searches in their offices and homes. Journalists and other media actors are prosecuted and convicted simply for doing their job.
Authorities continue to crack down on those who have taken part in peaceful protests, increasingly using recently expanded counter-extremism legislation to detain and charge peaceful representatives of civil society, journalists and civilians. other media actors and human rights defenders. This in effect allows authorities to criminalize any form of dissent, and we categorically and explicitly reject the assumption that such dissent amounts to “extremism.”
These actions serve to silence civil society organizations and make it increasingly difficult for them to continue to function in Belarus.
At the same time, further changes in laws aimed at ensuring national security expand the powers of law enforcement officials and de facto legalize future human rights violations against civil society.
We remain deeply concerned that Belarus has failed to investigate any of the well-documented crimes committed by the authorities. To our knowledge, no criminal proceedings have been opened, no Belarusian official has been held to account for their actions, and no Belarusian official has condemned or even acknowledged the massive human rights violations and abuses. abuses following elections.
The lack of action by the authorities aggravates the climate of impunity in Belarus. These concerns justified a number of international initiatives to address serious human rights violations in Belarus, such as the process led by OHCHR and established by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Responsibility Platform for Belarus. We urge Belarus to cooperate fully with these initiatives.
Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, which derive from the inherent dignity of the human person, has been at the heart of this organization since the signing of the Helsinki Final Act more than 45 years ago. Their respect is also an obligation under international law. It is high time for Belarus to fully adhere to the commitments and obligations it has freely entered into.
In this context, and on the basis of the recommendation of Professor Benedek’s report, we repeat once again our questions to Belarus:
When will the Belarusian authorities investigate credible reports of massive human rights violations and abuses, including allegations of torture, ill-treatment, sexual violence, disappearance and murder by security forces?
When will the Belarusian authorities initiate criminal proceedings against those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, including Belarusian security officials?
when will the Belarusian authorities ensure the protection of victims and witnesses who courageously came forward and reported their accounts of human rights violations and abuses?
We look forward to engaging with Belarus in a meaningful discussion on these and other concerns, as well as on how the OSCE and the international community as a whole can help address them. We urge Belarus to cooperate constructively and in good faith with the OSCE in order to resolve the current crisis in a peaceful and lasting manner.
Madam Chair, I ask that this statement be included in the journal of the day.