STORY: Report Human Rights in Belarus HRC
TRT: 3 min 12s
SOURCE: UNTV CH
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 22 March 2023 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations were committed in Belarus in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and in its aftermath, finds the latest report of the UN Human Rights Office presented today at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“The report draws on the detailed analysis of 207 interviews conducted in 2022 with victims and witnesses, as well as other stakeholders”, said Nada Al-Nashif, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. “Our Office collected, preserved and analysed over 2,500 items of information and evidence, according to our established methodology”.
The second report by the UN Human Rights Office documented widespread and systematic practices of torture and ill-treatment directed against individual for their real or perceived opposition either to the Government or to the official declared election results. These violations were generally committed after arrest in police vehicles, in police stations or in detention centres. The report covers the period from 1 May 2020 to 31 December 2022.
“OHCHR documented over 100 cases of sexual and gender-based violence involving at least 4 boys, 36 women and 60 men and reviewed over 180 additional credibly documented cases”, said the Deputy High Commissioner. “The report recounts cases of rape, attempted rape and threats of rape, strip searches, cavity searches and forced nudity. Sexual and gender-based violence was also often directed by men towards men”.
The beating of thousands of peaceful protesters in the immediate aftermath of disputed elections from 9 to 14 August 2020, was approved at a high level within Government, the report finds. Authorities in Belarus have arbitrarily arrested and detained tens of thousands of people over the past two and a half years, many of whom for taking part peacefully in demonstrations related to the 2020 presidential elections.
“We found the unlawful deaths of at least five persons in the context of the 2020 protests”, reported Ms. Al-Nashif. “Consistent with our previous findings of widespread, unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, we further assessed that crowd control equipment and weapons were unnecessarily used to forcibly disperse protests in Minsk, at least until November of 2020”.
OHCHR continues to document severe and disproportionate sentences handed down by the courts against opposition figures, bloggers, journalists, human rights defenders, trade unionists and lawyers.
“In 2023, such sentences include those handed down following separate trials of opposition leaders Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Pavel Latushko, four Viasna human rights defenders including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski,” said Ms. Al-Nashif.
Most independent Belarusian media outlets have been declared "extremist" by the authorities, including the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). By February 2023, the authorities had shut down 797 NGOs, while 432 others had closed to avoid potential prosecution.
“The authorities intensified their massive crackdown on members of civil society, the media and political opposition for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association”, so the Deputy High Commissioner. “As of 21 March 2023, this year, no fewer than 1,459 persons were arbitrarily detained on what OHCHR has reasonable grounds again to believe to be politically motivated charges”.
The Human Rights Office is greatly concerned about recent legislative amendments, such as the Criminal Procedure Code which was changed in July 2022, allowing now trials in absentia, to enable targeting of political activists abroad. The withdrawal of Belarus from the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which took effect on 8 February 2023, represents a further setback for the protection of human rights in the country.
In reaction to the report, Larysa Belskaya, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Belarus to the UN in Geneva said that “Belarus is living and developing in spite of the pressure and hysteria injected by a number of Western countries and the so-called 'OHCHR expertise', which for a year now has been creating biased reports about my country, one of which is presented today.”
She added that “both the authors of such reports and the initiators of anti-Belarusian resolutions at the Human Rights Council humiliate the Belarusian people, trying to identify our entire nation with a few marginal NGOs”.
The report urges the Government of Belarus to immediately release all prisoners sentenced on politically motivated grounds, and to cease all other ongoing human rights violations, including the repression of civil society, independent media and opposition groups.