Ales Bialiatski, Right Livelihood laureate 2020. Foto: Stina Stjernkvist

Belarus must stop targeting civil society, Viasna and Right Livelihood tell UN rights body

News 05.07.2021

Belarusian authorities must end the persecution and jailing of civil society activists and release all political prisoners, Right Livelihood told the UN Human Rights Council on Monday in a joint statement with 2020 Right Livelihood Laureate Human Rights Center “Viasna.”

The past months saw record numbers of arbitrary arrests and criminal prosecutions of peaceful protesters, we warned during a dialogue with Anais Marin, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, during the 47th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Read our entire statement.

We raised attention to the continued detention of human rights defenders, especially those who have worked with Viasna on documenting human rights violations.

“We remain particularly concerned about the situations of Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapiuk, Tatiana Lasitsa and Leonid Sudalenka, who have now been in pre-trial detention for months,” we said. 

“The hijacking of Ryanair flight 4978 to arrest journalist Raman Protasevich shows the length to which the authorities are ready to go in order to suppress civil society.”

As of June 30, 2021, Belarus had 526 political prisoners – a number that is expected to rise.

We also warned about the disruptive impacts of proposed amendments to Belarus’ Law on Countering Extremism, which “would be a new tool for the persecution of civil society and could lead to the forced closure of human rights organisations.”

The discussion with Special Rapporteur Marin focused on her recent report on the situation in Belarus, often citing information by Viasna. Marin wrote she was “deeply alarmed at the unprecedented escalation of human rights violations in Belarus” in the report.

“Of particular concern is the fact that the situation continues to worsen in a climate of fear, impunity and lack of accountability for perpetrators,” Marin wrote.

The Special Rapporteur called on the government of Belarus to start working towards “genuine reforms” including by releasing political prisoners, ending the prosecution of political opponents, journalists and human rights defenders, and investigating and prosecuting human rights violations.

Belarus must start taking action in line with Marin’s recommendations, we told the Council.

“We urge the authorities to … initiate a serious and credible process for constitutional reform, as well as immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners,” we said.

We addressed the Human Rights Council on behalf of Belarusian Laureates Viasna and its founder Ales Bialiatski as part of the Advocacy support offered to those receiving the Right Livelihood Award. The statement prepared jointly with Viasna and Bialiatski amplified the Laureates’ voice in one of the most important international fora on human rights.

Bialiatski and Viasna received the Right Livelihood Award jointly “for their resolute struggle for the realisation of democracy and human rights in Belarus.”

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