Skip to main content

Belarus: UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus a lifeline for civil society as authorities stamp out civic space (HRC56 oral statement)

Member states should implement her recommendations to protect Belarusians in exile and advance accountability for international crimes

This statement was delivered at the UN Human Rights Council on July 3 2024l, during an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

Mr. President,

Human Rights Watch thanks the Special Rapporteur for her report and tireless work to document the human rights situation in Belarus.

Her mandate has been a lifeline for civil society and human rights defenders as the authorities have sought to stamp out civic space and freedom of expression and association – we thank her for that.

With partners, Human Rights Watch has documented systematic and widespread retaliation against lawyers, who are being targeted for representing clients in politically motivated cases. At least six lawyers are currently serving sentences ranging from 6 to 10 years on bogus politically motivated charges.[1] One of them, Maksim Znak, has been held in incommunicado detention since February 2023. Many more have been arbitrarily detained, had their licenses arbitrarily revoked on politically motivated grounds, and subjected to other forms of harassment and threats. This tactic of repression is making a mockery of the judicial system and depriving Belarusians of their right to a fair trial and equal protection under the law.

We remain deeply alarmed by the harassment of families of those detained, and the increased use of incommunicado detention, contributing to the wider climate of fear.

Given the conclusion of the OHCHR examination that some of these rights abuses committed in the context of the increased repression since 2020 may amount to crimes against humanity, member states should implement the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to protect Belarusians in exile and advance accountability for international crimes.

We would like to ask the Special Rapporteur which testimonies she has heard over the past six years have marked her the most.

Thank you. 

[1] Maksim Znak, Aliaksandr Danilevich, Vital Brahinets, Anastasiya Lazarenka, Yuliya Yurhilevich, and Aliaksei Barodka. 

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country