European Union and Member States must support human rights in Belarus

In advance of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 14 August, Human Rights House Foundation calls upon the EU to send a clear and strong message to the Belarusian authoritarian president, police, and his security forces that those responsible for grave human rights abuses will be held accountable.

It is of utmost importance for the EU and its member states to stand up for human rights and democratic principles in solidarity with the brave demonstrators, journalists, and human rights defenders in Belarus. They are using peaceful means to express dissenting views and call for free and fair elections. The EU must send a clear message that the EU supports them and stands with them.

The post-election environment in Belarus has reached the point of crisis. In the last four days, nearly 7,000 individuals have been arbitrarily detained. There are increasingly disproportionate violent attacks against, and arbitrary arrests of, peaceful demonstrators, journalists, and lawyers. Reports of violence and torture of detainees continue to come out. Action on the part of the EU and member states is critical to stem the tide of violence and protect the fundamental human rights of Belarusians.

Human Rights House Foundation asks the EU and its member states to use all measures to pressure Belarusian authorities to immediately cease their attacks on citizens, human rights defenders and journalists exercising their rights to assemble, associate, and express themselves.

In particular, we call for the following:

  • EU and its member states’ foreign ministers should immediately call upon the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an independent investigation into human rights abuses in Belarus linked to the election process and ensure public reporting on the findings of that investigation.
  • EU member states should expand the sanctions regime approved on 17 February 2020 to include all individuals responsible for the current crackdown, including first and foremost the president. Furthermore, member states must ensure that the arms embargo on equipment that “could be used for internal repression” is fully implemented with any violations investigated and prosecuted.
  • EU and its member states must use all available diplomatic and political channels to clearly articulate to Belarusian authorities that further violence, crackdown, and repression will be costly and that the international community will see those responsible for such actions held to account.
  • EU and its member states should increase the support, including financial, to Belarusian civil society working on human rights and free media institutions. EU should ensure the monitoring of court cases for political prisoners in Belarus and provide free Schengen visas and safe haven for persecuted critical voices from Belarus.
  • EU must put pressure on Belarus to immediately and unconditionally release detained political prisoners, demonstrators, journalists, lawyers and other human rights defenders and stop further persecution of those trying to peacefully express their opinion.

Top photo: Solidarity chains in Belarus by tut.by

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