Key international human rights groups call UN HRC to renew mandate of Special Rapporteur on Belarus
Amnesty International, Civil Rights Defenders, Human Rights House Foundation, Human Rights Watch and FIDH are urging the UN Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus at its 44th session opened on June 30.
A joint letter signed by the five leading international human rights organizations stresses that the "recent crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists and members of the political opposition over the last couple of months ahead of the Presidential election in August provides a clear justification for renewing the Special Procedures mandate."
The HRDs call on the UN body to insist that Belarus "ends the human rights violations and ensures full respect and enjoyment of human rights in this critical electoral period and beyond." This includes refraining from harassment and intimidation of independent journalists, human rights defenders, political activists and any other government critics, including by stopping arbitrary arrests and politically motivated criminal prosecutions, and registering independent human rights organisations and other NGOs that apply for registration.
Belarus is also urged to "cooperate fully with UN human rights mechanisms, including inviting the Special Rapporteur to visit Belarus, and takes concrete steps toward implementing the
recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and other UN mechanisms, including the Human Rights Committee."
"Positive signs from Belarus should be encouraged, including its willingness to follow-up reviews by Treaty Bodies with direct engagement with civil society on the implementation of Treaty Body recommendations. Belarus can also be encouraged to more systematically, effectively and meaningfully, engage with civil society, including in the development of a new national human rights action plan, which will likely be drafted after Belarus’ Universal Periodic Review, due to take place on 2 November 2020. However, the Human Rights Council should also be clear that dialogue alone is not sufficient, and that Belarus’ many systemic human rights challenges need to be addressed with unambiguous and systemic action," the joint letter said.
The letter reminds that Belarus still refuses to cooperate with the mandate.
"The legislative and policy environment and practices that gave rise to widespread human rights violations in Belarus, and originally led to the Human Rights Council creating the mandate, for the most part remain in place. When widespread violations occur with impunity in Belarus, there is no recourse to justice at a regional level as Belarus is not a member of the Council of Europe," it said.
Yet, the Special Rapporteur is an important mechanism for Belarusian civil society amongst others, not only as a means for reporting human rights violations but also for the preventive role that the mechanism plays, with Belarus knowing that its actions are being monitored and reported on at an international level. Such attention is being called for by Belarusian civil society at the moment. The upcoming Presidential election in Belarus, combined with the challenges facing the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, is already providing a pretext for a spike in human rights violations against members of civil society. As many will remember, it was the spike in violations that took place directly following the 2010 Presidential election that led to the creation of the current mandate.