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The UNHRC held an interactive dialogue on Belarus

2022 2022-09-23T20:42:15+0300 2022-09-23T20:42:15+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
UN Geneva Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room. Photo: Ludovic Courtès

UN Geneva Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room. Photo: Ludovic Courtès

On September 23, at the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council, an interactive dialogue was held on the interim updated information of the High Commissioner on the situation with human rights in Belarus. The event was held as per the resolution adopted by the Council on April 1 of this year.

Following the presentation of the interim results by the acting High Commissioner, the participating states and non-governmental organizations made their statements.

Thus, many democratic countries drew attention to the ongoing repressions of media representatives, human rights defenders, and political and public activists in Belarus. Two years after the rigged presidential elections in August 2020, the pressure on the Belarusian citizens is not decreasing, the number of political prisoners is growing and today amounts to over 1,300 people. The speakers were worried about the changes in the legislation, which provide for expanding the use of the death penalty against so-called "terrorists", as well as the launch of the denunciation procedure of the optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Belarus' authorities keep persecuting citizens who courageously oppose the war in Ukraine. The speakers called on the Belarusian authorities to stop repression and putting pressure on citizens, to release all political prisoners, introduce a moratorium on the death penalty, stop the country's complicity in the war in Ukraine, participate in the UN special procedures, and to allow a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation into Belarus.

Representatives of some other countries, such as Azerbaijan, Nicaragua, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria, expressed the opinion that the UN HRC should not interfere in the sovereign affairs of Belarus or use an allegedly disproportionate and politicized approach to considering the issue of rights violations in the country.

In their speeches, NGO representatives paid special attention to the imprisoned human rights defenders, the shocking terms that were handed down this month for the coordinator of the Viasna Volunteer Service Marfa Rabkova and volunteer Andrei Chapiuk, as well as a new sentence for journalist Katsiaryna Andreyeva and the imprisonment of other independent media workers, lawyers, and public figures.

Thus, in her speech, the representative of Right Livelihood Fédora Bernard emphasized that over the past two years, the authorities have been routinely detaining everyone who exercises their civil rights, including anti-war protesters.

"After the arrest, many political prisoners are held in pre-trial detention for a long time. This is the case of Viasna human rights defenders Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk sentenced on September 6 to 15 and 6 years respectively on trumped-up charges, almost two years after their arrest.

This trend is all the more alarming given the deliberately inhumane conditions of detention of political prisoners, which can amount to torture: from overcrowded cells to beatings."

The human rights defender also noted the situation of the head of Viasna in pre-trial detention:

"Ales Bialiatski, the founder of the Viasna Human Rights Center, is kept in a "special corridor", a semi-basement floor with poor access to light, and his correspondence is strictly limited. It is terrible that he will spend his 60th birthday, which will take place next Sunday, in such conditions".

NGO representatives asked the UN Human Rights Council to continue to pay due attention to the situation with human rights violations in Belarus, including with the help of the OHCHR's expertise, and demanded from the Belarusian authorities the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, including Viasna human rights defenders.