The EU thanks the Special Rapporteur for her report as well as for her recent press releases that describe alarming crackdown to silence opposing views just weeks ahead of Presidential elections in Belarus to be held on 9 August 2020. We are alarmed by the current crackdown on human rights and fundamental freedoms in Belarus. Freedoms of assembly and association, freedoms of opinion and expression as well as freedom of media are being heavily curtailed and followed by numerous arrests of journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and opposition leaders including of those directly involved in the election process i.e. leaders and members of nomination groups collecting signatures in support of presidential nominees (one of them also remains in custody). The courts in different cities of Belarus have fined and imprisoned numerous detainees for taking part in the pickets held to collect signatures. There are also numerous complaints about disproportionate use of force by the police during the pickets as well as ill-treatment of prisoners and protesters in detention centers.
As mentioned in our recent statements, the harassment and persecution of the leading opposition candidates must stop. In line with their international commitments, the Belarusian authorities have to ensure that human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected and each candidate and voter can exercise their civil and political rights. Free and fair elections would not only reinforce the sovereignty and independence of Belarus, but also pave the way for greater prosperity for its citizens.
Furthermore, Belarus again failed to provide access for the Special Rapporteur in her official capacity. We encourage Belarus to cooperate with the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, and with other international human rights mechanisms.
We note that the first National Human Rights Action Plan for 2016-2019 became a useful framework facilitating intergovernmental cooperation and dialogue with civil society contributing to the State's marginally increased communication with civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations. We welcome that civil society representatives are more involved in discussions and working formats related to human rights legislation and legal practice in line with accepted UPR recommendations. We call on the Government of Belarus to develop and implement without delay a new Human Rights Action Plan, building on the lessons learned from the implementation of this first plan and taking into consideration the recommendations by treaty bodies, by human rights mechanisms and by civil society.
The EU firmly advocates for the abolition of the death penalty and strongly condemns its continued application in Belarus. According to Human Rights Center “Viasna” as of June 2020, four people are currently awaiting execution on death row at pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Minsk. We welcome the engagement of the Government of Belarus in discussions on the possible abolition of the death penalty and we urge Belarus to join the global moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition. We welcome the establishment of the Working Group on studying abolition of death penalty and we encourage for some significant steps.
Due to the recent developments on the ground the EU presents a resolution at the current session to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and urges the Government of Belarus to begin full cooperation with this mandate. We encourage the Government of Belarus to allow the Special Rapporteur to visit the country in her official capacity and to implement the recommendations of her report.
The EU remains open to further development of our relations and dialogue with Belarus, and continue our support for Belarus’ sovereignty and independence. In line with the 2016 Council Conclusions, tangible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law will remain key in shaping the EU's future relations with the country.
Madame Special Rapporteur,
We wish to convey our gratitude for your work as Special Rapporteur and to civil society representatives and other stakeholders who cooperate with the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and other mechanisms.
What are in your opinion the biggest challenges on the ground in a view of upcoming Presidential elections expected on 9 August this year?