STATEMENT BY BELARUSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS CONCERNING THE RECOGNITION OF THE BAJ AS AN EXTREMIST FORMATION
We view the KGB decision as yet another step in the large-scale policy of arbitrary use of anti-extremist legislation by the Belarusian authorities in order to persecute civil society organizations and suppress civil activism.
Statement of Belarusian human rights organizations on supporting and solidifying with Viasna Human Rights Centre
We view the verdict solely as political repression and retaliation for the peaceful efforts of the leadership and members of the Viasna HRC to defend human rights and freedoms in Belarus.
The report on accountability for violations of the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly has been sent to the UN Special Procedures
In the report, we explained that the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly are protected by criminal law. Nevertheless, these rights are being violated on a massive scale and the authorities have not brought the perpetrators to justice. We shared information about 777 organizations facing forced liquidation; at least 60 representatives of civil society organizations in places of detention, where they are constantly exposed to pressure; the disproportionate use of force at peaceful protests in 2020 led to numerous deaths of the participants, mass detentions, and torture.
The Council of Europe (CoE) has published a 15-point action plan to support the Belarusian democratic forces, including various activities, human rights courses, seminars on the European Convention on Human Rights, which will be held under the auspices of the CoE for representatives of Belarusian civil society. The experts of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee see this plan as a generally good tool box for civil society and even more for the professional legal community. These tools will help Belarusian lawyers to prepare the legal system of Belarus for integration into the Council of Europe which would allow a harmonious existence in the space of European standards in general.
The liquidation of the MHG is part of the systematic policy of the Russian authorities to suppress critical voices and eliminate independent civil society against the background of the aggressive war, started by Russia against Ukraine. These repressive actions are gaining momentum and include the persecution by the Russian authorities of other leading Russian human rights organisations such as the liquidation of the International Society “Memorial” and Human Rights Center “Memorial”, the imposition of huge fines and the seizure of the property of “Memorial” and the Sakharov Center, a significant tightening of the legislation on ”foreign agents“ at the end of last year, etc.
On 16 December 2022 Ekaterina Kouznetsova, an expert of the "Fifth Republic" project and international lawyer, met for an interview with human rights defender and chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Aleh Hulak. This conversation was the last for the Belarusian lawyer - on the same day Aleh Hulak unexpectedly passed away at the age of 56. In his last public interview he explains whether human rights can be a subject of political debate, whether they should become the basis of the philosophy of the new Belarus, and whether it is possible to build a healthy society in a country where the term “human rights” has become an invective.
We appealed to the UN special procedures in connection with the ongoing repression of independent trade unions in Belarus
By the assessment of the BHC, such actions of the Belarusian authorities violate Article 2 of ILO Convention No. 87, which provides that workers have the right to establish organizations of their own choice without prior permission and the right to join such organizations, and Article 11, which provides that the state undertakes to take all necessary and appropriate measures to guarantee workers and employers the right to participate in trade unions. Finally, such treatment violates the right to freedom of association, including the right to form and join trade unions, as provided for in article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It is noteworthy that on November 8, 2022, the International Labor Organization (ILO) decided to apply Article 33 of the ILO Constitution to Belarus due to systematic violations against workers and trade unions and disregard of ILO recommendations for more than 17 years. This is only the second case in the more than 100-year history of the ILO after the application of such extreme measures to Myanmar in 2000, which once again emphasizes the exceptional gravity of violations of trade union rights by the Belarusian authorities.
This post was created to shortly discuss some of the important things that have been done in the past year, as well as to thank our partners, experts, interns, and volunteers.
On December 16, human rights activist, head of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Aleh Hulak passed away. He was only 55 years old.
We sent a message to the UN Special Procedures on the practice of recognizing civil society organizations as extremist formations
We called on the Special Rapporteurs to contact the Belarusian authorities and ask them to bring legislation on extremism in line with international human rights standards, as well as to stop the practice of recognizing civil society organizations as extremist formations, organizations without proper reasonable and proportionate grounds.
On the evening of December 16, the head of the organization Aleh Hulak died. The preliminary diagnosis is cardiac arrest. Information about farewell will be provide next week. Condolences to loved ones.
Interim report of the national human rights coalition on the implementation by the Republic of Belarus of the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee / follow-up report
The Committee will consider the report of the Republic of Belarus and information from human rights organizations at its spring session, which will be held February 27 - March 24, 2023.
In our report we pointed out that the denial of access to the Red Church to the Catholic community was a continuation of the practice of violations of the rights of Catholics in Belarus, as there had already been politically motivated persecution, infringement and restriction of religious traditions and customs. We highlighted that aforementioned state’s actions constitute structural discrimination against Catholics in Belarus.
APPLICATION TO THE UN SPECIAL PROCEDURES REGARDING THE ADOPTION OF A BILL THAT ALLOWS THE POSSIBILITY OF APPLYING THE DEATH PENALTY FOR TREASON TO THE STATE
According to the BHC, such actions can be qualified as a violation by Belarus of its obligations under international law, in particular paragraph 2 of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that death sentences can be imposed only for the most serious crimes. The Human Rights Committee, for its part, clarified in general comment No. 36 that the term "most serious crimes" should be interpreted restrictively and only mean crimes of the utmost gravity involving intentional homicide. We paid attention to the Committee's position that, since the death penalty is incompatible with the full enjoyment of the right to life, states should strive for its absolute abolition. And the adoption by state parties of measures that de facto result in an increase in the number and extent of their use of the death penalty, or in a decrease in the number of cases they grant pardons and commutations of sentences, is contrary to the object and purpose of article 6.
Some clarifications of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee about the stage of the work of the "contact group" and what agenda the human rights activists are promoting.
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Belarusian Medical Solidarity Foundation appealed to the Red Cross organizations on the issue of discrimination by the Secretary General of the Belarusian Red Cross Society (BORC)
On October 18, 2022, the Secretary General of the Belarusian Red Cross Society (BORC), doctor Dzmitry Shautsou, spoke on the STV channel about gender identity and sexual orientation. His comment contained discriminatory and stigmatizing theses.
We start fighting official presidential decree 368 that is bringing surveillance to an unprecendented level, focusing on business and human rights
In addition, the imposition of such obligations on Belarusian companies in the ICT sector and online service providers means that all telecom operators and service providers, as well as owners of Internet resources, will be complicit in violating the rights of their customers if they comply with the Decree. That is, this decree is another situation where the state draws businesses into violation of human rights.
Information on the accessibility of COVID-19 vaccine in Belarus was sent to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The report includes not only general information on equal and free-of-charge access to vaccination in Belarus but also data on forced vaccination in certain state institutions. It was highlighted in the report that free and equal access had been applicable only to certain vaccines, such as the Russian vaccine Sputnik V or Chinese Vero Cell. The report also informed about the state policy towards vaccination against COVID-19, such as the refusal to join the international initiative COVAX.
Submission to the UN Special Procedures in connection with human rights violations against the defendants in the Autukhovich case
We reported that the accused were being held in inhumane conditions, psychological and physical torture was applied to them, in particular, they were deprived of the opportunity to correspond and were not provided with the necessary medical care.
Submission to the UN Special Procedures in connection with the ongoing practice of recording and publishing penitential videos with the participation of teenagers
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee has sent information to the UN Special Rapporteurs about another penitential video with the participation of a teenager, published on a channel close to the security forces. In the video, the teenager admitted that he took part in the 2020 protests, and also left negative comments about the war in Ukraine towards residents of the Russian Federation. In this way, according to the security forces, he "incited hatred on the Internet."
This means that now BHC, and through us other Belarusian civil society organizations that protect human rights, have an easier way of communicating with the UN.
Alternative reports on the implementation by the Republic of Belarus of SDG 16 and the 2030 Agenda as a whole
We decided to prepare an alternative report that would reflect the real picture in the country for all the targets of SDG 16.
Danilevich, Mochalov, Lazarenko, Braginets. We informed the Special Rapporteurs about numerous cases of prosecution of lawyers in Belarus.
These facts about detentions, arrests and administrative harassment of lawyers establish the continuation of the policy of repression against and intimidation of lawyers, who protect clients in politically motivated cases.
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee is constantly communicating with the relevant UN Special Rapporteurs for the protection of Belarusian lawyers. On this page, we collect all information about the work done by human rights defenders in this regard.
In the message, we shared the details of Arciom Dubski's disappearance. On May 11, he was detained in Minsk and taken to the KGB for interrogation. On the night of May 12, Arciom was released from the KGB with the requirement to come back at 14:30 for "operational search activities". When Dubski returned to Osipovichi after the interrogation, a passenger car with three "masked men" followed him to his house. In the morning, a minibus joined the passenger car. On May 12, at 12 o'clock in the afternoon, Arciom went outside and did not return. Since then, Artem has not been in touch.
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee contacted the heads of Telegram, Apple, Google with a request to respond to the facts of violations of children's rights in the Belarusian segment of Telegram by channels affiliated with the state. We are talking about the practice of publishing “penitential” videos, the participants of which are children.
INFORMATION TO THE UN SPECIAL PROCEDURES ON AMENDMENTS TO CRIMINAL LEGISLATION EXPANDING THE SCOPE OF APPLICATION OF THE DEATH PENALTY
In the submission, we drew attention to the comment of the House of Representatives that the purpose of such amendments was “to have a deterrent effect on destructive elements, as well as to demonstrate the resolute struggle of the state against terrorist activities.” In this regard, we stressed that it was the inevitability, not the severity of punishment, that was a deterrent factor in committing a crime. The BHC also pointed out that there was no public discussion on this issue, while discussion of such complex and sensitive issues was extremely necessary.
We stressed that the exact legal basis of criminal charges against trade union activists was unknown, and that the search decree listed about 10 articles of the Criminal Code that had traditionally been used over the past two years to persecute civil society and political opposition. In addition, in the message we drew the attention of Special Rapporteurs to the fact that on April 7, the KGB recognized the Belarusian Trade Union of Radio-Electronic Industry Workers (REP) as an extremist formation.
The BHC sent a communication to the UN Special Procedures about the violation of the right of lawyers to freedom of expression
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee has addressed the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, on the independence of judges and lawyers and on the human rights situation in Belarus with information about violations of the right of lawyers in Belarus to freedom of expression. We reported on disciplinary proceedings initiated against lawyers for signing a petition against the participation of the Republic of Belarus in the armed conflict on the territory of Ukraine, specifying that three lawyers had already been reprimanded, and the other two were awaiting consideration.
Submission to the UN Special Procedures in connection with the violation by the Republic of Belarus of its obligations on the rights of the child
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee has sent information to the UN Special Rapporteurs on torture, on freedom of expression and opinion, on the right to health, on the right to privacy and on the human rights situation in Belarus on the practice of public arrests of teenagers and the publication of "penitential" videos with the participation of children. The submission described 3 cases of demonstrative detention of teenagers in front of their peers, and also gave examples of 6 "penitential" videos.
Referendum 2022: Analytical report of the expert mission on the evaluation of the constitutional referendum
Significant violations of the national legislation and fundamental principles of fair and democratic elections during the referendum, including depriving observers of the opportunity to monitor the counting of voting results, do not provide grounds to trust the election results announced by CEC and consider them reflecting the real will of the citizens of the Republic of Belarus.
On February 24, 2022, the military forces of the Russian Federation began an invasion of Ukraine. This is called by Russian Federation a “special operation”, but we must be blunt: a war has begun, and Russia is an aggressor country, while Belarus has been involved in this war as an aggressor’s ally.
The experts of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee reported on the case of Vladimir Matskevich to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, for freedom of expression and on the situation of human rights in Belarus.
INFORMATION ON VARIOUS FORMS OF VIOLENCE IN BELARUS WAS ADDRESSED TO THE UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE RIGHT TO THE ENJOYMENT OF THE HIGHEST ATTAINABLE STANDARD OF PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH
Experts of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, in the response to the announced call for civil society organizations around the world, addressed information to the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health for the preparation of the thematic report «Violence and its impact on the right to health» for the 50th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2022.
We have asked the Special Rapporteurs to contact the Belarusian Government to reconsider their decision to criminalize participation in non-registered or previously dismantled organizations, as well as not to apply article 193-1 in practice, as such action is a violation of international obligations of Belarus in the area of freedom of association.
Belarusian Helsinki Committee appealed to Pavel Durov, the CEO and Co-Founder Telegram, Sundar Pichai, the CEO Google and Alphabet, and Tim Cook, the CEO Apple Inc. We drew their attention to the facts of posting and disseminating through the Telegram resources of Belarusian segment some video and text materials, violating human rights and demonstrating violence and human dignity humiliation (including the right to privacy, prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and political views, and radical forms of hate speech towards LGBTQ+ people).
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS SENT AN ALTERNATIVE REPORT ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN BELARUS TO THE COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
In addition to the long-standing problems in the realization of social and economic rights, such as forced labour, problems of access to adequate health care in places of deprivation of liberty, the report highlighted key developments of the past two years in terms of perspective of economic, social and cultural rights in Belarus.