Pavel Sapelka: “Belarusians are victims of apparent abuses of power” Document
On May 11, the Moscow Mechanism report on human rights violations in Belarus was presented at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). However, the Belarusian authorities called this report a “cheap show.” We asked Pavel Sapelka, a lawyer with Viasna Human Rights Center, about the importance of the report, the role of Viasna in preparing the document, and how this year’s account differs from previous ones. The full text of the report can be found at the bottom of this page.
— Why is the application of the Moscow Mechanism concerning Belarus important?
— The human rights situation in Belarus continues to deteriorate. There are no premises to consider that repression and the overall political and legal crisis are weakening. The very fact of triggering the Moscow Mechanism by the same procedure, which was used at the request of 38 countries to study “threats to the execution of human dimension provisions, created by violations and abuses of human rights in the Republic of Belarus,” “to assist current and any future attempts to hold accountable for human rights violations in Belarus, including by civil society and the United Nations” has already signaled an alarm to the Belarusian authorities and the international community.
The rapporteur’s conclusions following the investigation are even more significant: using the language of universally recognized human rights standards based on collected objective data, facts, and expert assessments of the situation in Belarus are presented. These findings enrich advocacy tools and give a specific message to all democratic countries: Belarusians are in danger. They have become victims of apparent abuses of power, and the situation is unacceptable for it to be tolerated. The rapporteur emphasizes the inadmissibility of abuse of power to maintain political power and builds a system of recommendations, the fulfillment of which by all subjects satisfies the interests of the Belarusian state and society.
— What is the merit of Viasna in preparing the report? Which Belarusian organizations, besides Viasna, participated in its writing?
— Belarusian authorities called the launch of the Moscow Mechanism a “cheap show” and refused to cooperate with the rapporteur, so the burden of providing objective data on the situation in Belarus fell on civil society organizations, including and primarily human rights ones. A coalition report, “One year since the OSCE Rapporteur’s Report under the Moscow Mechanism”, was submitted, in which experts from the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Viasna, Legal Initiative, Lawtrend, Belarusian PEN, and Human Constanta participated. Also, some organizations sent their materials as an addition; links to them are marked in the report. Viasna provided information on a wide range of issues, from the situation with political prisoners and other convicts on political motives to the assessment of legislative changes and serious human rights violations caused by these changes. Thematic reports released by the organization, giving an impression of the situation in different spheres of public and political life, helped assess the situation about persecution on political grounds, violations of rights and freedoms, and the results of the expert mission to observe the 2022 referendum.
— Do the recommendations of this year's report differ from the Moscow Mechanism reports of 2020 and 2011? What has changed?
— Yes, the recommendations of each of the three reports within the Moscow Mechanism (2011, 2020, 2023) are unique; they reflect systemic unresolved problems, this is their certain similarity, but they also reflect current issues of our time. For example, in 2011, the issue of investigating the cruel treatment of presidential candidates and members of their teams and activists held in KGB detention centers was relevant. In 2020 holding genuine democratic elections and investigating torture [came to light]. This year’s recommendations touch upon problems related to legislative regulation in the field of combating extremism, persecution for political motives, and the need to support the efforts of initiatives aimed at reporting and documenting human rights violations in Belarus, in particular the work of the International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB), and setting up cooperation in national or international investigations.
- osce_report_2023_05_11_en.pdf (1.24 Mb)