The Belarusian Helsinki Committee spoke at the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of the coalition of Belarusian human rights defenders.
We endorse the view shared by more than 30 Belarusian and international human rights organizations that the Council should establish an independent mechanism to investigate the most severe human rights violations in Belarus, including crimes against humanity. Read the full statement below.
The matter was discussed during the interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner's report The Human Rights Situation in Belarus Ahead of the 2020 Presidential Election and Afterwards .
We should mention that this report recognizes that “some of the violations may also amount to crimes against humanity, as defined in customary international law, when such acts are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilians, and if the attack is committed intentionally”.
The stance expressed by the official authorities is, of course, what anyone would expect. Permanent Mission's Belarusian representative in Geneva: “The report serves as a tool of cascading the anti-Belarusian agenda of Western countries at the UN and the Human Rights Council. The OHCHR continues to protect those who were unable to undermine the Belarusian state and illegally seize power in 2020 by participating in mass riots, directing anti-government protests, inciting hatred in society, using violence and threats against law enforcement officials, public officials, and pro-state journalists.” (source)
Statement by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee on behalf of the coalition of Belarusian human rights defenders at the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council
HRC52 - Item 4 - Interactive Dialogue - OHCHR Examination of Belarus
22 March 2023
Distinguished President, Madame Deputy High Commissioner, Excellencies, Colleagues
This is for the first time that a Belarusian human rights organization in consultative status with ECOSOC is addressing this Council. I am honored to be a voice of a wider Belarusian human rights defenders coalition.
As we gather here today, more than fourteen hundred persons in Belarus including human rights defenders and in particular Nobel prize winner Ales Bialiatski are held in torturous conditions and recognized as political prisoners while tens of thousands of persons are under imminent threat of persecution. Their only crime is demanding free and fair elections, confronting state violence and impunity, and standing for human rights.
Human rights situation in Belarus is deteriorating for the third year in a row. Appreciating the High Commissioner's office examination report, we urge the Human Rights Council to strengthen the international mechanism on Belarus so that it can specifically address the most serious human rights violations committed in Belarus including crimes against humanity. Tackling impunity in Belarus is a matter of regional importance.
We support the call of more than 30 Belarusian and international organizations to establish an independent investigative mechanism to complement and follow-up on the work of the existing High Commissioner's office examination.
We call on the UN Human Rights Council to take decisive action especially in light of Belarus' withdrawal from the ICCPR Optional Protocol. Let the people of Belarus know that human rights are not a luxury but a fundamental aspect of our humanity.