Joint oral statement during ID OHCHR report on the situation of HR in Belarus
On 17 March 2022, Lawyers for Lawyers alongside the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, the Law Society of England and Wales, and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada delivered an oral statement about the findings of the OHCHR Examination report, during the Interactive Dialogue on the OHCHR report on the situation of human rights in Belarus in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and in its aftermath (HRC res. 46/20). The Interactive dialogue took place during the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The statement reads as follows:
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, Lawyers for Lawyers, The Law Society of England and Wales, and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada note their alarm about the findings of the OHCHR Examination report.
The report confirms ongoing serious human rights violations, including disproportionate use of force, arbitrary arrests and detention, and torture and ill-treatment, and concludes that there is sufficient basis to warrant further assessment of available evidence for the purposes of pursuing international criminal accountability.
As of 1 February 2022, over 1,000 prisoners have been documented and recognised as “political prisoners”, with the actual number estimated close to 5,000. At least 275 civil society organisations were closed down, and 13 prominent media outlets declared as “extremist” as well, with at least 33 journalists and media workers already detained in 2022.
At least 36 lawyers had licenses withdrawn after representing defendants facing criminal and administrative charges, and harassment in politically sensitive cases. This creates a chilling effect on other legal professionals which restricts human rights defenders’ and political opponents’ right to access independent, effective legal representation, perpetuating a culture of impunity.
With urgency, this Council must take all possible actions to ensure accountability for abuses and to prevent further deterioration of the situation. We urge the renewal of the mandate of the OHCHR Examination.
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