26/02/2021 HRC 46 : Belarus must end the prosecution of peaceful activists and release all political prisoners

HRC 46 : Belarus must end the prosecution of peaceful activists and release all political prisoners

Human Rights, 26/02/2021

On February 25th, during the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, the Right Livelihood Foundation, jointly with Human Rights Center “Viasna”, 2020 Right Livelihood Laureate, delivered a statement on the occasion of the Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on the aftermath of the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus. We praised the courage of all the internal observers who reported, at great personal risk, on the fraudulent elections and on the subsequent crackdown. In particular, we condemned that numerous members of Viasna have been imprisoned for their peaceful human rights work. 

The report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet states that the situation [in Belarus]reflects long-standing, chronic patterns of systemic violations and impunity. In her address to the Council, she expressed deep concern at the increasing reprisals against journalists, human rights defenders and organisations, including Right Livelihood Laureate “Viasna”. Ms. Bachelet called for an immediate end to the policy of systematic intimidation and reprisals used by the Belarusian authorities against those peacefully asking for democracy and raised specific recommendations addressing key systemic issues, including the independence of the judiciary.

Belarus took the floor as the concerned country and reiterated its non-recognition of Resolution 45/01 adopted by the Human Rights Council on 18 September 2020. It argued against the credibility of the High Commissioner’s report and deplored that it was carried out without the consent of the State, therefore representing a violation of the principle of non-interference. During the debate, 55 States took the floor. Denmark (on behalf of 42 states) expressed serious concern at the use of torture by the Belarusian authorities against prisoners and urged them to stop the persecution of a peaceful and democratic movement. It also called on Belarus to immediately and unconditionally release those arbitrarily detained in connection to the protests. Canada and Lithuania were appalled by the recent mass raids targeting journalists and activists and called for accountability. The EU, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg and others, urged Belarus to stop reprisals against peaceful protesters and denounced an unprecedented human rights crisis in the country. France stressed that it will continue to advocate for further scrutiny on Belarus by the Human Rights Council. On the other hand, China, Iran, the Russian Federation, Venezuela and Cuba argued that the situation does not require the Council’s attention as the report interferes with the internal affairs of Belarus and violates national sovereignty.

During the Interactive Dialogue, the Right Livelihood Foundation and Viasna condemned the refusal of Belarus to grant access to OHCHR and praised the role of all internal observers who reported on the violation occurring in the country. The Foundation underscored the fundamental role played by 2020 Right Livelihood Laureate Viasna, which members have observed peaceful assemblies and documented evidence of torture of detained protesters. We condemned that Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapiuk, Tatiana Lasitsa and Leonid Sudalenka remain in detention for their human rights work and expressed deep concern by the recent intensification of repressions, including the recent raid of Viasna’s offices and Ales Bialiatski’s house. We thus urged Belarus to implement all the recommendations of the report, immediately and unconditionally release all those detained in connection with the protests and drop all charges against them. Read our full statement here.

In her concluding remarks, Deputy High Commissioner Ms. Nada al-Nashif deplored that no information was provided by Belarus on criminal cases and that investigations were not transparent. She stressed that accountability for human rights violations is critical to prevent further violations and to provide a sustainable solution to the crisis. Lastly, she argued that the Council stands ready to support an inclusive national dialogue in Belarus.