At the urgent debate of the UN Human Rights Council, initiated by the EU countries, the current situation in Belarus was discussed. Most representatives of the states favoured cessation of violence, starting a dialogue between the authorities and representatives of the opposition and civil society.
Nada Al-Nashif, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke about cases of human rights violations in Belarus, violence, including sexual violence, torture, the use of force against minors and their detention. After her speech, Permanent Representative of Belarus Yuri Ambrazevich said that such statements violate the procedure of the debate program.
Anais Marin, UN Special Rapporteur for Belarus, addressed the audience via video link. She reported on numerous and systematic violations of human rights in our country, which have continued for decades, noting that on the eve of the presidential election, the political field was cleared of popular candidates.
She accused Alexander Lukashenko of creating the crisis in the country. According to Marin, the authorities remain deaf to the appeals of the international community and the Coordination Council, while some of its members, like Maria Kolesnikova, may face a sentence of five years in prison. Marin stressed that in comparison with the protests of December 2010, the current protests in Belarus are peaceful and occur spontaneously. She reported arbitrary and politically motivated detentions, violations of the right to assembly, as well as the right to freedom of speech and freedom of information by the authorities which shut down the internet and harass the media.
When the speaker began reporting on more than 500 evidence of torture, the representative of Russia interrupted her speech and said that is was against the “rules of procedure”. He was supported by the representatives of Venezuela and China. Although a claim was rejected by European countries and the head of the UN’s Human Rights Council. After that, Anais Marin continued her speech, she spoke about torture with electric tasers, sexual and psychological violence against those detained during the days of mass protests in Belarus. She also said that violation of human rights is not an internal affair of the state, but concerns the entire world community, and that the creation of an “iron curtain” in Belarus should not be allowed.
Marin noted that in recent months the Belarusian society has changed a lot and is united by the desire for democratic changes. Then the audience watched a video footage of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s appeal, in which she spoke about the dead and injured, and also reminded of her readiness for a peaceful discussion with the Belarusian authorities about the current situation. It was again interrupted by representatives of Belarus and Venezuela, but their colleagues from Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark objected to them. One of the victims, Ekaterina Novikova from Minsk, also addressed the audience via video link.
She spoke about her detention on the way to a store in the Nemiga area, violence by security forces and unacceptable conditions of detention and treatment in detention facilities, where she saw men beaten unconscious. The representative of Belarus stated that the government rejected the accusations, and the Belarusians expressed their will at the election. He also said that information provided by previous speakers was unverified, stressing that some media outlets present a picture of the reality of those whose candidate lost the vote.
Once again, statements were made about the coordination of protests from abroad through telegram channels, intimidation of the families of law enforcement officers, as well as the use of Molotov cocktails, sticks, stones and cars in confrontation with the security forces by protesters. The representative of Belarus stated that cases of sexual violence against detainees had not received official confirmation, and claimed the existence of fakes about missing people and the excessive use of force by the police. His speech ended with an assurance that the demands of the reforms on the part of the Belarusian society will be considered by the group engaged in the preparation of the draft of the new Constitution of Belarus.
In their speeches, the use of force against peaceful demonstrators, cases of torture and other violations of human rights were condemned by the foreign ministers of Germany, Denmark, Slovakia, Poland, the Netherlands and Bulgaria. The head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry expressed concern about accusations of foreign support for the protests, declaring on behalf of Ukraine about absolute non-interference in the sovereignty of Belarus, and also warned Russia against such steps.
Also, representatives of Canada, Australia, Austria, Marshall Islands, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, Japan, Finland, Slovenia, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Croatia, Greece, Luxembourg, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Albania condemned the use of violence and torture, and declared that the election were not recognized as free and fair. They noted that the protests are unprecedented in the history of Belarus. Some countries that did not speak out publicly on the past election emphasized that they were shocked by the incidents of violence Belarus.
Similar statements were made by the representatives of Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, New Zealand, Malta, Ecuador and Moldova. Some countries spoke out in support of the Belarusian authorities or stated that it was inadmissible to use the Council and the topic of human rights to put pressure on individual states and apply a policy of double standards by international structures. Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, China, Syria announced the recognition of the official results of the presidential elections and the current Belarusian government.
The representative of Burundi elaborated on the issue, calling the electio fair and transparent. Tajikistan reported that it was closely monitoring the situation, and the CIS observer mission did not identify any serious irregularities during the presidential election. According to the Tajik side, the situation in Belarus does not require intervention or mediation from other countries, and the human rights situation does not need urgent discussion. Philippines, Indonesia, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, North Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Iraq limited their statements to speaking about respect for sovereignty and the inadmissibility of interference in the affairs of another state.
Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan recalled their close friendly ties with Belarus and welcomed the desire of the authorities to carry out constitutional reform. They declared their support for the sovereignty of Belarus and spoke out against the politicization of the UN Human Rights Council. The representative of Russia said that a group of aggressive states is participating in the discussion about the situation in Belarus and that one should not interfere in the internal affairs of our country and allow destabilization, “as happened in a neighboring country.”
In his opinion, the mass arrests of protesters in France and Germany did not cause such a debate, and much more people suffered from police actions in the United States, but the international community was silent.
British Minister for European Neighborhood and the Americas Wendy Morton supported the position of the European Union on the situation in Belarus, and also called for the imposition of sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations. She stated that Britain will provide assistance to independent media and activists in Belarus and will allocate at least one and a half million pounds for this purpose. The Romanian Foreign Minister also announced the allocation of 100 thousand euros for such programs.
The Vatican urged to start a dialogue, stop violence, support human rights, and also expressed concern that the situation could affect the Catholic Church in Belarus. The spokesman for the Holy See called for reconciliation and said that the authorities should listen to the people. Representatives of non-governmental human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, as well as UN Women and UNICEF, also spoke on the situation. All of them declared the systematic violation of human rights in Belarus.