UN: Hold Belarus authorities accountable for rights violations

UN: Hold Belarus authorities accountable for rights violations - Protection

Statement by ARTICLE 19 and Human Constanta statement during the interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on the situation of human rights in Belarus at the 55th Session of the Human Rights Council.

Human Constanta and ARTICLE 19 thank the High Commissioner for his report.

For 4 consecutive years since the notorious contested presidential election, the human rights crisis in Belarus has never ceased to deepen. Mass political repressions permeate online and offline spaces, with people facing imprisonment for leaving online comments and administering social media channels. Such widespread persecution, which leaves thousands of people in prison, is made possible with the use of “anti-extremism” and “terrorism” laws to silence dissenting voices.

On 11 November 2023, the Prosecutor General announced that since 2020, more than 16,000 crimes “of extremist nature” were registered in Belarus.  The corpus of Belarusian “anti-extremism” laws lacks sufficient precision and grants the authorities unfettered discretion to restrict the freedom of expression and other human rights. The persecution may range from administrative sentences for “spreading extremist materials” to criminal sentences for “founding an extremist formation.”

Relevant lists of “extremists” and “terrorists” are regularly updated with the names of dissidents. Prominent human rights defender and political prisoner Nasta Lojka, serving her 7-year prison sentence for writing a human rights report, was put on the  “terrorist list” in October 2023. She was tasered, threatened, and featured in a forced “confession” video,  spread across  pro-government channels before she was even charged. Her flat was searched two times, as well as her 76-year old mother’s home. Her lawyers were repeatedly arrested, disbarred, forced out of the country, and intimidated. As she was designated a “terrorist,” it will be impossible to make monetary transfers to her as those would be qualified as “financing terrorism.”

We call upon the Human Rights Council to continue to take measures to urge the Belarusian authorities to respect international human rights law, including by demanding the release of Nasta Lojka and other defenders in detention, while also demanding the authorities allow visits and provide updates on the health and detention conditions of those who remain in prison.

We also urge the international community to utilize available mechanisms for holding the Belarusian authorities accountable for human rights violations against defenders, including by means of extraterritorial and universal jurisdiction and inter-state complaints under relevant treaties, as well as by explore additional targeted measures against the individuals allegedly responsible for the torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and harassment of  defenders.