6th session of the Human Rights CouncilEnhanced Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner's report on BelarusStatement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
25 February 2021
Our comprehensive report
on the situation of human rights in Belarus in the context of the 2020 presidential election – mandated by the Council
last September – covers serious violations of human rights between 1 May and 20 December last year. They were aimed at
curtailing the right to participation in political affairs, and the rights to freedoms of opinion, expression, peaceful
assembly and association.
The events that unfolded before and immediately after the election have led to a human rights crisis of unprecedented
dimension in the country. They have also brought greater visibility to a longstanding and chronic pattern of systemic
violations and impunity, which has been previously noted by this Council's Special Rapporteurs on Belarus, as well as by
the treaty bodies and other mechanisms.
Numerous and widespread violations committed in the context of the election; the systematic denial of fundamental
freedoms; mass arbitrary arrests and detentions of people who organized or participated in largely peaceful protests, or
who voiced criticism or dissent; hundreds of allegations of torture and ill-treatment; acts of harassment and
intimidation targeting opposition members, journalists, human rights defenders and citizens in general – all these
violations, committed with impunity, created an atmosphere of fear.
Failure to ensure accountability for these violations is a fundamental concern and key aspect of this crisis. The
Government’s information note with respect to our report, which we received on 10 February, indicates that “the preliminary investigation bodies received 4 644 complaints about use of physical force and special measures by the
personnel of interior affairs interrupting unsanctioned protest actions”. However, it goes on to observe that over 1050 of these complaints were rejected. It offers no information regarding
the number of security personnel – if any – who have been investigated or charged for excessive or unnecessary use of
force. From other sources, we understand that not one of the hundreds of complaints for acts of torture and
ill-treatment, which the report mentions, had led to the opening of a criminal case, prior to our cut-off date of 20
Since completion of our report, the human rights situation has further deteriorated. The Government’s systematic
crackdown against protestors continues. I am also concerned that legislative amendments currently in preparation
reportedly enable harsher punishments for participation in peaceful demonstrations.
I am worried by increased targeting of journalists and human rights defenders both institutionally and individually.
Just last week, large-scale searches of human rights defenders, journalists, and organizations such as the Belarusian
Association of Journalists and Viasna were conducted, reportedly in connection with criminal investigations for “mass
disorder.” As of 9 February, some 246 people have been sentenced to prison terms on allegedly politically-motivated
It is essential for the future of the country that respect for human rights, and the broadest possible civic space, be
established. All those who have been detained for peacefully exercising their rights should be released. Thorough,
effective, credible and transparent investigations should be conducted into all allegations of serious human rights
violations, with perpetrators brought to justice. There should be an immediate end to the policy of harassment and
intimidation of civil society and media workers.
I further recommend comprehensive reform of the national legal framework. Our report includes specific recommendations,
which address key systemic issues, including with respect to fair trials, due process and the independence of the
Our report is an impartial and non-political account of the human rights concerns that Belarus should urgently address.
I hope your interactive dialogue will also be a step in that direction. The Office is ready to cooperate with the
authorities to facilitate the significant transformations, which we view as essential to building a just, peaceful and
sustainable path for the country.
To see the video statement on the Belarus report go to: https://owncloud.unog.ch/s/Dpwitcb1orlhIAq