HRC46: Statement on the Universal Periodic Review of Belarus

On 16 March 2021, Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF) issued a statement at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council calling for a stop to criminal investigations and raids of human rights defenders homes and their organisations, as well as a stop to the coordinated and on-going attacks on journalists.

Thank you.

During the UPR of Belarus, many recommendations addressed the immediate and serious concerns of Belarusians, given the full-blown human rights crisis that the country is facing.

Unfortunately, those recommendations all still remain relevant today. Rather than addressing its recommendations, the state has actively pursued policies to exacerbate already serious human rights violations.

Nevertheless, the current crisis has not occurred in a vacuum. In fact, if recommendations from previous UPR cycles had been implemented by Belarus, it is unlikely that it would now be facing its biggest human rights crisis in its post-independence history.

Since 2015, there have been no significant changes in the legislative and institutional framework for the promotion and protection of human rights. While legislative amendments were made, these changes were not consistent with international human rights obligations.

Despite repeated calls, Belarus does not have a National Human Rights Institution, has refused to cooperate with the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur for nearly a decade, and often shows contempt for the recommendations of the UN Treaty Bodies, including urgent interim measures requests of the Human Rights Committee.

So now we find ourselves in the position of having to make the following, very serious recommendations, which are far from comprehensive:

  • Stop criminal investigations and raids of human rights defenders homes and their organisations, now including Viasna and its employees, for carrying out their legitimate human rights work;
  • Stop criminal investigations and reprisals against organisations like the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for their cooperation with the United Nations Office in Minsk;
  • Stop the coordinated and on-going attacks against journalists, drop charges against those being prosecuted, and exonerate those journalists who have been sent to prison for conducting their legitimate journalism.

Thank you.

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