Belarusian civil society organizations are courageously speaking out—calling on UN member states to reject Belarus' bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The statement by the Helsinki XXI is below....

This is exactly why the requirements placed before governments seeking membership in the Council represent such high standards: to unconditionally recognize, respect, ensure, and protect human rights and freedoms all over the world, in all countries, in all territories; to fulfill all the international obligations committed to in the area of human rights in good faith; to be open to cooperation with international and intergovernmental agencies and human rights organizations.

It is our firm belief that only states in which human rights are truly recognized and effectively protected by the power of law should be members of the Council.

It is our firm belief that the membership of the Council should not include any state that demeans human dignity, any state that shows disdain for inalienable human rights and freedoms, any state that does not recognize the authority of the Council and its institutions, or any state that demonstratively fails to fulfill the obligations to which it has committed in the area of civil and political rights for its citizens.

We appeal to everyone on whom the future of the international system for protecting human rights and freedoms established under the purview of the United Nations depends and to everyone who will vote in elections for the Council.

We urge you to vote with a sense of responsibility for the creation of a world in which people will have freedom of speech and convictions, where they will be free from indignity and fear, and where they will live under conditions of freedom and justice.

On behalf of the Helsinki XXI human rights group,

[four signatures]

Helsinki XXI is a group of human rights activists that were forbidden by the authorities to defend the rights of anyone not a member of this group.