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UN Rights Body: Strengthen Scrutiny of Human Rights in Belarus

Item 4 Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Belarus

The Special Rapporteur’s latest report finds that the Belarusian government is continuing its pattern of systemic oppression and human rights abuses and that there has been no improvement of the human rights situation in the country. Human Rights Watch’s monitoring of Belarus supports the report's conclusions.

An illustrative example was this year's "Freedom Day" centenary event on March 25, when over 100 peaceful protesters were detained or otherwise prevented from participating in the rally. A law which requires state authorization for any public gathering allows the government to criminalize and routinely arrest protesters, a powerful tool in the state's repression mechanism.

Several days prior to the event, opposition leaders and former presidential candidates, among others, were placed under pre-emptive house arrest. These actions are part of the broader pattern of silencing journalists, activists, and lawyers through detention, often supplemented by using judicial proceedings and the like to harass perceived critics and impose severe fines. In one such example, the Justice Ministry revoked the license of a defense lawyer who worked on many politically motivated criminal cases. Despite the lawyer’s 38 years of legal experience, the commission conducting a re-certification procedure, concluded she “lacked professional skills."

The government has also sought to further restrict access to online media, shown in the recent blocking of the website. Draft amendments to the Law on Media that would allow authorities to block any online content, without the need for a court order, are currently before parliament.

Belarus has consistently ignored calls from the U.N. and human rights organizations to end its use of the death penalty, and the government continues to execute people sentenced to death.

In April, the Committee Against Torture reviewed Belarus. But Belarus has not implemented recommendations made by the committee, or by other treaty bodies.

This is part of Belarus’s broader, persistent unwillingness to meet the standards and recommendations of international human rights mechanisms. This underscores the importance of the U.N. Special Rapporteur’s role: there needs to be a strengthened, rather than diminished presence of international human rights bodies on Belarus. We call on the Human Rights Council to ensure continued monitoring of government abuses and work toward the protection of human rights for everyone in Belarus.

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