Human Rights House Foundation statement
HRC54 – Item 4 – Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner – Belarus
22 September 2023
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The Deputy High Commissioner responds
We draw the Council’s attention to the celebrated artist, Ales Pushkin, who died in prison in Belarus in July. The circumstances of his death still remain unclear, but what is clear is that he should not have been in prison in the first place, and especially without the presence of family and loved ones when he died.
There are thousands of Pushkins in Belarusian prisons today, detained and imprisoned for purely political reasons. Many have no access to family members, to lawyers, or to timely medical assistance. We continue to raise Marfa Rabkova’s case. 17 September marked three years since she was first detained by the authorities for her human rights work, and she is now serving a 15-year sentence.
We condemn the government’s recent designation of her organisation, Viasna, as an extremist formation. We will not forget Marfa, or her Viasna colleagues, or the thousands of others in similar situations, and call on their release.
We are also deeply worried about the government decree to force Belarusians to return to Belarus to obtain or renew their passports or other essential documents. This appears to be another cynical attempt by the Belarusian government to retaliate against those who have been forced to flee the country in recent years. We urge states that are sheltering Belarusians to do all that they can to assist Belarusians who are outside their country in the face of such actions.
We ask the Deputy High Commissioner for her assessment of the future of the work of the OHCHR Examination, alongside the work of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus.