ARTICLE 19 and Human Constanta thank the Special Rapporteur on Belarus for her strong report, which rightly highlights that the climate for the right to freedom of expression has deteriorated to a critical level. We share her conviction that the Belarus government has shown a ‘continuous disdain’ for international human rights mechanisms.
As the Special Rapporteur notes, the Belarusian government continues to prosecute and detain those critical of the state, in complete contempt of the right to freedom of expression. On 20 June, Minsk City Court sentenced human rights defender Nasta Loika to seven years in prison on politically-motivated charges of ‘incitement’ under Article 130 of the Criminal Code. A vocal supporter of human rights for almost 15 years, Loika has been subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment behind bars, and has been denied access to legal protection. Despite interventions by UN experts, the Belarusian government has failed to respect her basic human rights.
We urge States dedicated to the right to freedom of expression to intensify their demands that Belarus comply with its international human rights obligations, including to explicitly call for the immediate release of Nasta Loika and all other prisoners sentenced on politically-motivated grounds, as well as to explore additional avenues for accountability.
The Belarusian authorities have also scaled up their use of broad anti-extremism and terrorism laws, which have become the source of a systematic assault on a wide range of interrelated human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, to freedom from torture, to a fair trial, to privacy, to association and assembly, and others.
We encourage the Special Rapporteur to continue monitoring and reporting on developments related to anti-extremism and terrorism.