In passing this resolution, the region’s most important human rights body joins the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), and Organisation for Security & Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in calling for a political solution to the human rights crisis in Belarus and accountability for perpetrators of on-going human rights violations.

“The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has traditionally played a critical role in holding governments accountable for human rights violations and today’s action is firmly within that tradition,” remarked Dave Elseroad, Head of Advocacy at HRHF. “Coupled with newly created accountability mechanisms at the United Nations level as well as by Belarusian NGOs, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the Belarusian authorities and those States which support them are on the wrong side of history.”

Today’s PACE resolution stresses the importance of ending impunity for gross human rights violations and calls on COE member states to use universal jurisdiction and impose targeted sanction against perpetrators of such violations. Furthermore, PACE calls on member states to support victims of repression in exile and asks the Committee of Ministers to consider how the COE can serve as a mediation platform between authorities and the opposition.

In a report to the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights which preceded today’s resolution, the rapporteur for human rights defenders, Alexandra Louis, wrote that it was important for PACE “. . . to send a clear message to the perpetrators and organisers of the serious violations of these rights reminding them that their actions violate the most fundamental rights and freedoms and that they will be held to account for their misdeeds”.

Since protests began surrounding the presidential election on 9 August 2020, Belarusian authorities have conducted an unprecedented wave of violence against journalists, lawyers, and other human rights defenders as well as the political opposition. To date, more than 33,000 people have been detained and a number of reports by international bodies, including the United Nations, have highlighted credible allegations of widespread torture and other ill-treatment of those detained while exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association. In addition, Belarusian authorities continue their attacks against independent civil society including Human Rights Centre Viasna and the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ).

“Today’s resolution by PACE is important in reflecting unwavering international resolve to support the Belarusian people in their fight against authoritarianism,” Elseroad noted. “But States must continue to exert economic pressure against those responsible for human rights violations or those whose support allows the authorities to continue their violent repression.”