Statement in response to the presentation of the OSCE Rapporteur’s Report under the Moscow Mechanism on the serious threat to the OSCE human dimension in Belarus since 5 November 2020

11 May 2023

As delivered by Ambassador Anna Olsson Vrang, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the OSCE to the Permanent Council, Vienna May 11, 2023.

  1. Mr. Chairman, I am delivering this statement on behalf of the following delegations: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. We warmly welcome Professor Hervé Ascensio to the Permanent Council and thank him for the report on “the serious threat to the OSCE human dimension in Belarus since 5 November 2020” prepared in accordance with the OSCE Moscow Mechanism.

  2. Over the past three years, we have on numerous occasions expressed our serious concerns about the state of the human rights situation in Belarus with regards to the political rights and the democratic process, freedom of expression, assembly, media, as well as allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Regrettably, the severe crackdown by the Belarusian authorities on the opposition, civil society and independent media continues unabated, while our dialogue in the Permanent Council has so far failed to dispel concerns about the adherence by Belarus to OSCE commitments and principles.

  3. We would like to recall that the Moscow Mechanism was developed to ensure respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law through dialogue and cooperation and to assist in resolution of specific relevant questions. It should thus be understood as a tool for fostering dialogue and for supporting the participating States. Under the Moscow Mechanism all participating States have committed themselves to co-operate fully with the mission’s experts, to facilitate its work and to grant the mission all facilities necessary for the independent exercise of its functions.

  4. Regrettably, Belarus once again has chosen not to cooperate, neither by appointing a rapporteur as a member of the mission nor by granting the necessary assistance and access to Professor Ascensio, the latter in violation of existing OSCE commitments. Belarus also declined the opportunity to provide its comments to the draft report, which would have been attached to the final report.

  5. We commend Professor Ascensio for his professional and impartial overview of the human rights situation in Belarus. We thank him for all the efforts and for gathering the relevant information, collecting evidence and conducting interviews. In this respect, we express our appreciation to ODIHR for its technical assistance to the mission and all the individuals and organizations who contributed their testimony and expertise for the preparation of the report.

  6. The report clearly confirms that the set of legislative changes made by the Belarusian authorities in the aftermath of the 2020 massive repression was designed to hinder any form of opposition. The report concludes that these legislative amendments amount to “politically motivated repression”, which aims to ensure the Belarusian government’s control over the whole of society and suppress all critical voices, including those opposing Belarus’ complicity in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

  7. The findings of the OSCE rapporteur shed light on the systematic and state-driven nature of violence in Belarus, which has taken the form of waves of arrests targeting certain categories of people, including: demonstrators, political opponents, human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists, and lawyers. Regrettably, this has taken place alongside a wave of liquidation of associations that has led to the destruction of large parts of civil society in Belarus.

  8. The report corresponds with our critical assessment of the human rights situation in Belarus and Belarus’ non-compliance with existing OSCE commitments. It confirms that, the Belarusian government has repressed peaceful demonstrations, and targeted independent associations, political parties, and trade unions. As pointed out in the report, violations of freedom of expression and the right of access to information have affected all types of media and authorities have blocked the access to the websites of most independent media and civic initiatives.

  9. The “politically motivated repression” of the Belarusian authorities have resulted in a high number of political prisoners in Belarus. The prisoners have been subject to torture and inhuman and/or degrading treatment, which occur on a regular and organized basis in places of detention and are particularly targeted at those perceived as political opponents. The report provides us with their shocking testimonies, confirming that Belarus is implementing a broad policy of arbitrary arrest and detention incompatible with international standards and its judicial system does not offer all guarantees of a fair trial.

  10. In this regard, and in light of the recently reported death of Mikalai Klimovich in a Belarusian prison, let me again reiterate our concern about the health situation of political prisoners, including former potential presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka, who was hospitalized reportedly with traces of beatings. We urge the authorities to ensure his safety and provide him with immediate and proper medical evaluation and assistance. We reiterate our demand for the immediate and unconditional release of Viktar Babaryka and all other political prisoners.

  11. It is the Belarusian authorities and the Belarusian leadership that bear the sole responsibility for the appalling human rights situation which is meticulously described in this report. We express our hope that recommendations made by the Rapporteur and today’s deliberations will contribute to improving this situation. We urge the Belarusian authorities to make full use of the report and to fully and timely implement its recommendations.

  12. We reiterate our readiness to assist the Belarusian authorities in meeting their OSCE commitments and remain ready to support a peaceful democratic transition of Belarus. We remain determined to address the human rights situation in Belarus and, in this regard, we take note of the recommendations of the rapporteur directed at OSCE participating States and at the international community.

  13. We will continue our efforts to ensure justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators.

I thank you.

Last updated 11 May 2023, 10.41 AM