Belarus human rights situation under review at UN forum
Belarus’s rights record received support from some Member States and urgent calls for reform from others at a regular review at the United Nations in Geneva on Monday.
Permanent Representative of Belarus to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Yury Ambrazevich, opened the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) meeting by appealing to other Member States to respect its current situation while commenting on its recent human rights record.
“The third cycle of the UPR is being undertaken by Belarus in a situation not only of a pandemic but also a complex situation with politics and society in our country following the elections to the presidency,” he said. “We have publicly several times spoken out on this subject. In that connection I would like to appeal to all participants today not to turn the UPR on Belarus only into a discussion of post-election events.”
Belarus faced written questions from the United States, Germany, Britain and others demanding greater safeguards on torture and freedom of expression, amid questions and comments from more than 90 delegations during the discussion.
“Belarus recognises that there are issues on which work needs to be done, and work will continue on these in the future,” Ambassador Ambrazevich said. “At the same time, we are convinced that only through respectful dialogue without external pressure, blackmail or conditions is it possible to make true progress, including on the basis of leading international experience.”
In September, UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed deep concern about the use of force against peaceful protestors in Belarus, where the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko in August prompted huge demonstrations, and the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the deteriorating rights situation.
In Monday’s UPR session, Russian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Gennady Gatilov welcomed the implementation by Minsk of previous UPR recommendations. “In conditions of increasing external pressure that would not be easy,” he added. “We take the view that non-interference in internal affairs of a sovereign state, including in electoral processes, is a basic principle of international law.”
US Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, said that Belarus should immediately stop its “brutal crackdown” on peaceful protestors and hold those responsible to account. It should also immediately release all those detained in election-related protests and engage in a genuine dialogue with civil society, he added.
“Belarus’s 9 August presidential elections were fraudulent and we are deeply concerned by the ongoing use of violence, intimidation and repression against the Belarusian people,” Ambassador Bremberg said.
The UPR session also heard from Government bodies and ministries in Minsk, who commented by videolink. A Belarusian Interior Ministry official rejected earlier criticism, saying that the protests were deliberate provocations by trained fighters. Under interrogation, detained young people had said they had made a mistake by going to the protests, he said, adding that the demonstrators had been lured by fake news and used as “cannon fodder”.
The Interior Ministry official added that Belarus was allowed to limit the rights and freedoms of citizens in the interests of national security, public order, protection of morality and public health, and that there had been no identified cases of unlawful acts by the police.