Last week, the UN Human Rights Council reviewed the situation in Belarus as part of the Universal Periodic Review and the OSCE Special Rapporteur on the situation in Belarus published a report.
On November 3, 2020, Belarus presented its national report on observance of human rights for 2015–2019 at a session of the HRC working group as part of the Universal Periodic Review. Representatives from 92 states participated in the discussion and developed 266 recommendations to improve the situation of human rights in Belarus.
Members of over half the delegations called on Belarus to put an immediate end to violence against peaceful protestors, investigate allegations of torture, release political prisoners, stop hindering the work of the media, observe the rights to freedom of association and freedom of assembly, not interfere with the work of human rights organizations and their representatives, and cooperate within the framework of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus (26 members).
Thirty-five countries made a separate call in their recommendations for a moratorium on the death penalty and ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which aims at the abolition of the death penalty.
Other important recommendations included recommendations to adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, abolish restrictions on women’s selection of profession and gender discrimination in the university enrollment process, and enhance social protections for vulnerable groups. Recommendations also noted that members of the Roma community are poorly integrated into society, face complications accessing education, and need more robust social support. The delegations also recommended ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and adopting measures to protect asylum seekers from torture and to protect children during the process of migration.
Meeting participants noted with satisfaction that Belarus ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during the reporting period.
The Belarusian delegation has until March 2021 to study all the recommendations it received from the HRC working group, express its opinion on their relevance, and undertake to implement them.
The report of the OSCE Special Rapporteur on the situation in Belarus was published on November 5, 2020. This report was prepared by the Special Rapporteur, Professor Dr. Wolfgang Benedek, within the framework of the Moscow Mechanism, which was invoked by 17 OSCE participating states on September 17, 2020. Belarus refused to cooperate and did not appoint a second Special Rapporteur.
In terms of “election fraud,” the Rapporteur concluded that the presidential elections of 9 August 2020 were not transparent, free, or fair and called on Belarus to cancel their results due to irregularities at all stages of the process and to organize new presidential elections based on international standards.
Regarding allegations of serious human rights violations, the Rapporteur found that they are massive, systematic, and ongoing. The Special Rapporteur was particularly concerned by the lack of investigation into cases of torture and ill-treatment and the absence of accountability. The report also notes massive violations of freedom of the media and the safety of journalists, freedom of assembly and association, and the right to liberty and security. It also notes that elections and human rights abuses are related to each other and that the necessary legal reforms will not have the desired effects without democratic and structural reforms.
Regarding vulnerable groups, in relation to which ADC Memorial and its partners submitted information, the report makes separate note of violations of the rights of women and children and special guarantees for them. The Special Rapporteur also reported on violation of the rights of children to freedom of expression and assembly enshrined in Article 15 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and threats against parents who allow their children to participate in demonstrations, including the threat of removal of children. He also details the practices of mistreatment of women, sexual and gender-based violence, and ill-treatment of children that are used by members of Belarusian law enforcement officers.
Photo by © Kseniya Halubovich