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Unprecedented human rights crisis

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Vladzimir Astapenka — on the draft resolution of the UN Human Rights Council on Belarus

"All cases of violence and excessive use of force on both sides will be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators will be punished" - this is not a statement made by the national leader of Belarus S. Tsikhanouskya or by Pavel Latushka, Head of the National Anti-Crisis Management. This is a citation from the letter of the Permanent mission of the regime of Lukashenka in Geneva which pretends to represent the Republic of Belarus. The promise was made at the end of August of 2020 when there were some 900 complaints against brutal actions of the militarized units and by that time the "investigations had so far not found information sufficient to determine whether there were grounds for instituting criminal proceedings against police officers".

The Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that as at late November 2020 there were already 4,644 complaints filed on the use of violence by law enforcement officers. It should be added that during the peaceful protests there were at least 9 persons killed, more than 30 000 arbitrarily detained, among them 500 journalists, 1800 were tortured and still the Investigative Committee of Belarus did not take even a single decision to open any criminal case.

One can hardly find a sphere in human rights kept intact as a result of massive repressions of the regime of Lukashenka against the wide majority of Belarusians. Freedom of peaceful assembly and of expression, arbitrary arrests and detentions, rights to due process and to a fair trial, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, repression of the specific groups (human rights defenders, lawyers, women, minors, students and academics, medical workers, journalists).

The mentioned report of Michel Bachelet at the 46th session of the Human Rights Council concluded that the widespread violations committed in the context of the elections, the systematic denial of fundamental freedoms, the mass arbitrary arrests and detention, hundreds of alleged acts of torture, harassment and intimidation targeting opposition members, journalists and human rights defenders and citizens in general have created an atmosphere of fear and impunity that led to a human rights crisis of a magnitude unprecedented in Belarus.

However, this did not impede the Foreign Minister of Belarus to lie again and to cynically claim that the authorities fulfill all their human rights obligations, strictly observing the international treaties. The latest example that reflects their attitude is the introduction of the amendments to the Administrative code of Belarus that have come into force today, on March 1st. In response to long-standing recommendations of the Committee on Human Rights to revise the Mass Events Act, with a view to guaranteeing the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of assembly, both in law and in practice, for peaceful protesters the regime of Lukashenka without changing the restrictive procedures established that the fines for breaking the order of holding a mass event (manifestation, picket, etc.) or for the participation in an unauthorized event will increase 3−4 times up to 2200 USD which is more than 4 average monthly salaries.

This means only one thing: Lukashenka who lost the presidential elections and falsified their results intends to hold on illegally to power and is going to intimidate the population by all aggressive means at his disposal. His repression machine has been substantially intensified and is now accelerating; it sets forth the goals to initiate criminal investigations against all identified protesters, to create concentration camps for political prisoners, to keep the protest off the streets. This means that the Belarusians will have to face more injustice, violence and terror.

Therefore, we believe that the situation in Belarus requires a very special and devoted attention of the international community in general and of the UN human rights mechanisms in particular. We call upon the current members of the Human Rights Council to support the draft resolution entitled "Situation of human rights in Belarus in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and in its aftermath", which sends a strong signal to the democratic forces in Belarus, and to enable the carrying out the mandate of the Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts to be set up for ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims of the systematic and massive violations and abuses of international human rights.

Unfortunately, the promises of the diplomats representing the illegitimate regime are not trustworthy any longer…

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