ARTICLE 19 thanks the Special Rapporteur for her report, which rightly details the ‘atmosphere of fear’ and ‘deplorable human rights situation’ in Belarus. The human rights crisis in Belarus continues to deepen, as journalists and human rights defenders are silenced through intimidation and imprisonment or forced into exile.
As identified by the Special Rapporteur, extremism laws are especially notorious in suppressing the right to freedom of expression. Groups expressing dissent are increasingly recognised as ‘extremist formations’. From April to June 2022 alone, at least 22 people were detained on ‘extremism’ charges. As of mid-June 2022, 283 court decisions have been taken to recognise materials as ‘extremist’, such as activists’ Telegram channels and independent media resources.
The Belarusian authorities have continued their systematic attack on journalists and media workers. Andrei Aliaksandrau is facing up to 15 years in prison for ‘state treason’ in a closed trial that started on 6 June 2022. Katsyaryna Andreeva, who is currently finishing a two-year prison term for allegedly organising an ‘illegal protest’, is also facing a new charge for ‘state treason’, given 15 years in prison, in order to deny her release.
Those whose job it is to defend the oppressed, including lawyers and human rights defenders, are targeted too. Forty Belarusian lawyers have been disbarred, while four remain in prison for performing their professional duties. All human rights organisations have been disbanded and criminal responsibility has been introduced for working on behalf of unregistered organisations.
We urge the Government of Belarus to end its policy of denying the Special Rapporteur access and recognition and to meaningfully engage with the mandate, including by fully implementing the recommendations of the report.
We express our strong and full support for the Special Rapporteur and call on this Council to ensure the renewal of the mandate at this session.