Belarus: Human rights situation still catastrophic, UN expert says
05 July 2023
GENEVA (5 July 2023) – The human rights situation in Belarus has deteriorated steadily as repression reached unprecedented levels in 2020, a UN expert warned today.
“I am particularly concerned about the notable increase in the practice of incommunicado detention, which targets political opposition members and civil society activists currently behind bars,” Anaïs Marin, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus, told the Human Rights Council.
In her report, Marin noted the deliberate State policy of purging civic space of its last dissenting elements.
The report documented continuing repression against independent media and trade unions, and restrictions to academic freedom. More than 1,500 individuals are still being detained on politically motivated charges, with an average of 17 arbitrary arrests occurring daily since 2020.
“Freedom of opinion is being hampered through ideological control and disciplinary measures, as part of a systematic attack on freedom of expression, media freedom, and academic freedom,” the expert said.
She noted that freedom of opinion and expression were challenged when individuals tried to speak out against the armed attack by Russia on Ukraine, or if they questioned the role of Belarus in the aggression.
“I am particularly concerned that anti-war actions led to numerous detentions and arrests, some on charges of planning terrorist attacks—a crime that can now be punished by death,” the Special Rapporteur said.
“The lack of accountability for human rights violations that have been taking place since the 2020 crackdown on peaceful protesters fosters a climate of fear among victims and their families, notably fear of retaliation for cooperating with UN human rights mechanisms.”
Marin called on the international community to continue to support initiatives and mechanisms gathering evidence of human rights violations, particularly of the most serious crimes such as torture, summary execution, enforced disappearance and deportation, which could amount to crimes against humanity.
“Victims and their families deserve consideration and reparations. Facilitating access to justice and ensuring accountability through universal jurisdiction is paramount to prevent future violations,” she said.
The expert urged the Belarusian Government to fulfil its international human rights obligations.
“Truth, justice and reparation for victims of human rights violations are necessary conditions for the country and its people to thrive,” she said.
Ms Anaïs Marin (France) was designated as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus by the UN Human Rights Council in 2018. She is an independent researcher based in Warsaw, Poland, and an associate fellow with the Russia and Eurasia programme at Chatham House, London, UK. A political scientist specialising in international relations and Russian studies, she holds a Ph D from Sciences Po, where she studied international public law and comparative politics with a focus on post-communist transformations in Central and Eastern Europe. She has also taken part in OSCE/ODIHR election observation missions, including in Belarus. She has published extensively on Belarusian domestic and foreign policies.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
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