The UN Human Rights Council creates a Special Rapporteur on Belarus

Press release
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Today (July 5 2012), the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a resolution on the situation of human rights in Belarus expressing concerns over the prompt deterioration of the situation of human rights in the country following the Presidential elections of December 2010, and establishing a mandate for a Special Rapporteur to monitor the situation, work with the authorities and the domestic civil society, and report back to the Council and to the General Assembly.

« Today, there is good news for the civil society of Belarus in two respects: not only did the International Community sent a strong message of support for their rights and freedoms, but it also took concrete action by establishing a mandate which is able to generate more room for civil society, whose space has been shrinking for the past few months » FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen declared. «The Council showed today that torture and impunity, fabricated cases and violations of freedoms of expression, as well as violations of freedom of association and movement for human rights defenders and political activists can no longer be met with silence and indifference », Viasna Vice-President Valentin Stefanovic added.

The resolution, presented by the European Union, was adopted by a majority of 22 members states against 5, with 20 abstentions. The support for this resolution has proven broader than that for the last resolution. Burkina Faso, who abstained in 2011, as well as Benin, Congo and Botswana who were not member in 2011, joined Mauritius by voting in favour of the resolution. Countries from all regions, including Costa Rica, Chile, Peru, the Philippines, Jordan and the Maldives added their votes to the European and other Western states’, giving strong cross-regional support to the resolution.

The Special Rapporteur will provide regular updates to both the Human Rights Council in Geneva and to the General Assembly in New York, putting Belarus higher up on the UN agenda. FIDH and Viasna see the Special Rapporteur as an opportunity for members of the civil society to make their voices heard, at a time when independent media has been silenced, independent NGOs activities have been criminalized, and even travel abroad has been prohibited for many human rights defenders.

The mandate holder will be appointed in September of this year.

For more information on the situation in Belarus and the need for a special rapporteur:

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