OHCHR report to UN Human Rights Council reveals serious violations of human rights in Belarus


17 February 2021: The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted a report to the forty-sixth session of the UN Human Rights Council covering the situation of human rights in Belarus. The report examines the events during the electoral campaign and the situation that unfolded around and following the presidential election of 9 August 2020.

According to the report, the information collected by the OHCHR reveals serious violations of human rights in the mentioned period.

“[…] a number of actions before and after the election were aimed at curtailing the rights to freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and the right to participation in political affairs, in particular before the election, which led to a human rights crisis of a magnitude unprecedented in Belarus.”

The report underlines that this situation reflects “long-standing, chronic patterns of systemic violations and impunity, which have been highlighted by various international human rights mechanisms, including the treaty bodies and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus”.

“The widespread violations committed in the context of the elections, the systematic denial of fundamental freedoms, the mass arbitrary arrests and detention of people who organized or participated in protests or voiced criticism or dissent, and the hundreds of alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment, harassment and intimidation targeting opposition members, journalists and human rights defenders and citizens in general have created an atmosphere of fear and impunity. The situation has been further compounded by the lack of action to ensure accountability for such human rights violations,” – says the report.

The High Commissioner concludes the report with recommendations on measures that the Government should take to improve the situation. The long list of recommendations includes ensuring that “independent, impartial, prompt, thorough, effective, credible and transparent investigations are conducted into all allegations of human rights violations in the context of peaceful protests”. It also calls for immediate and unconditional release of “all those unlawfully or arbitrarily detained for peacefully exercising their freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly or their legitimate functions, including human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers”, and ceasing and reversing “any administrative or criminal judicial action against people for exercising their human rights, including the rights to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly”.

OHCHR report was prepared on the basis of remote monitoring, due to the Belarusian government’s refusal to issue a standing invitation and provide its access to the country. In the report the High Commissioner once again expresses the hope that the Government will issue a standing invitation to all special procedures of the Human Rights Council, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus. 

Photo credit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferre