HRC53 – Item 4 – Interactive Dialogue – SR Belarus
5 July 2023
Check against delivery.
We condemn the recent decision of a Minsk court to sentence human rights defender Nasta Loika to seven years in prison for her human rights activities. We call on her immediate release alongside the roughly 1,500 political prisoners in Belarus.
We also strongly urge the Council to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur this session. Belarus has now withdrawn from the First Optional Protocol of the ICCPR. The Special Rapporteur’s mandate is one of the last remaining mechanisms that Belarusian civil society has to draw attention toward the widespread violations they are facing. Some of these violations may amount to crimes against humanity, according to the OHCHR’s examination of the situation.
We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s particular focus on freedom of opinion and expression. We join her in drawing the Council’s attention to the designation of the Belarusian Association of Journalists as an “extremist formation”. We call for this decision to be revoked and continue to call for the release of Andrei Aliaksandrau, one of many imprisoned journalists.
According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists and Justice for Journalists Foundation, the criminalisation of journalism continues. Criminal penalties for media workers, the report notes, have become more severe. In particular, reporters are being sentenced to terms longer than those for violent crimes such as murder.
We ask the Special Rapporteur how the international community can better support Belarusian journalists, in particular, those who have had to flee Belarus?