The EU thanks the UN High Commissioner for presenting her report on the human rights situation in Belarus.
The EU is deeply concerned about the steep deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential elections, which were neither free nor fair. The elections triggered the peaceful civic mobilisation of the people of Belarus to which the authorities are responding with disproportionate use of force, and with violence and repression. Belarusians continue to be denied their human rights and fundamental freedoms including through mass arbitrary arrests and detentions. We are deeply concerned about the hundreds of reported acts of torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual and gender-based violence. The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of opinion, expression, and information, as well as freedom of the media both online and offline remain heavily curtailed. The ongoing use of intentional internet shutdowns, as well as targeted content blocking are deeply troubling.
The report describes serious, longstanding and systemic human rights violations as well as lack of action to ensure accountability. Hundreds of reports were received of systemic and brutal beatings by the security forces, of arbitrary arrests and detentions and of acts that could amount to torture and other ill-treatment. Several international human rights mechanisms have repeatedly raised concerns about the prevalence of torture and ill-treatment in Belarus and the persistent lack of investigations and accountability.
The EU is appalled by the ongoing brutality of repressions and violence carried out by Belarusian authorities, including against minors and other vulnerable groups. So far, no members of the security forces have been charged for the excessive use of force. Those responsible for human rights violations must be held accountable.
The EU is deeply concerned by the deterioration of the rule of law in Belarus, manifested by systematic violations by the authorities of domestic and international law.
The widespread use of torture, sexual and gender-based violence, as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment by law enforcement officers, including in prisons and detention centres, are matters of serious concern. And while all such cases require an urgent independent investigation, alarmingly, the Belarusian authorities have made no efforts to investigate the reported violations. The tragic death of Raman Bandarenka last November reminds us that impunity breeds further violence. We continue to call on the Belarusian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally all arbitrarily detained persons to release and rehabilitate all political prisoners and to end political repression in the country.
We urge Belarus to promptly and thoroughly investigate all reports of human rights violations, including by security forces.
The EU condemns attacks targeting civil society, human rights defenders, journalists, independent media, independent labour unions and ordinary citizens in Belarus, including through the launch of mass-scale criminal trials, numerous acts of intimidation as well as confiscation of private property and bank account deposits.
For the above mentioned reasons, the EU will present a resolution this session aiming to ensure the much needed continued international scrutiny of the human rights violations in Belarus and to ensure accountability. The well-functioning accountability mechanism is needed to collect, analyse and preserve information, and evidence with a view to bring perpetrators to justice in the future either at national or international level.
We once again call on the Government of Belarus to allow the Special Rapporteur on Belarus to visit the country in her official capacity and to implement the recommendations of her reports, the present report of the High Commissioner and other reports of international organizations, such as the report prepared by Prof. Benedek under the Moscow Mechanism of the OSCE. Furthermore, we call on the Belarusian authorities to engage with the OSCE.
The EU stands in solidarity with the people of Belarus in their demand for the protection and respect for their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and calls on Belarus authorities to enter into genuine dialogue with the representatives of civil society, represented by the Coordination Council. The EU unequivocally supports the people of Belarus in their legitimate demand for new free and fair elections, which must be held as soon as possible in 2021 in line with international standards and monitored by independent international observers.
The EU continues to urge Belarus to abolish the death penalty and, as a first step, to introduce a moratorium.
Madame High Commissioner,
What can the Human Rights Council do to contribute to accountability for human rights violations in Belarus to prevent a further deterioration?
I thank you.