Belarus is not safe for anyone critical of authorities, human rights expert warns — Global Issues


In her last annual report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in BelarusAnaïs Marin, repeated more broadly, long-standing concerns of the UN and the international community over the curtailment of democratic freedoms and other serious human rights violations in the country.

President Lukashenko, 69, has been in power since 1994 and is Europe’s longest-serving leader.

The repression in Belarus is so large and intense that the country can no longer be considered safe for anyone who disagrees with the government or its policies. I therefore reiterate my call to refrain from extraditions and deportations to Belarus,”said Ms. Marin, a political scientist and French citizen who was appointed in 2018 by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

Democratic turnaround

“The general trend I see is a further tightening the screws on any real or perceived opposition to the incumbent government, and the systematic persecution of anyone who dares to express dissenting views on its policies“, she told the Human Rights Council, the main UN forum for member states to discuss and address human rights situations of concern.

In the absence of Belarus from the Council to respond to her report, the Special Rapporteur also noted that, having entered a new election cycle, the country “has not given any signal that the next presidential elections will be conducted differently than before”.

Extremist label

Illustrating the pressures facing civil society in Belarus – which rejected the Special Rapporteur’s requests to visit the country, she said – Ms Marin noted that more than 1,500 registered associations had “disappeared” in recent years – almost half the number that existed before the 2020 election violence.

“This was also achieved by labelling them as ‘extremist formations’ and then persecuting their leaders and members and pushing them to move abroad,” she explained.

Unions and more undone

In her report covering the period from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024, the independent expert stated that “all types of independent associations” in Belarus have suffered: civil society organisations and initiatives, political parties, trade unions, bar associations, religious or cultural organisations and online communities.

Further, Independent trade unions in Belarus “have been dismantled” and the number of political parties has fallen from 16 to four in the run-up to the February 2024 parliamentary elections, the Special Rapporteur said.

Exile or prison

All those who ever had the courage to speak out against the government or its policies are either behind bars or in exile.,” Ms Marin said in a separate statement, adding that dissidents in exile “continue to face intimidation, are labelled as traitors or extremists, and are prosecuted in absentia for alleged crimes”.

Among the legislative measures taken by the authorities “to suppress free assembly and association,” the independent expert listed mandatory re-registration campaigns, restrictions on access to funding and “retaliation” for donations, along with “liquidation of associations through or without judicial proceedings,” the designation of undesirable associations as “extremist formations” and the “persecution of their leaders, members, volunteers and supporters.”

For those in prison, the independent expert highlighted “more than a dozen” reported deaths in custody since 2020. These were “likely caused by inadequate or untimely medical care”, Ms Marin said, adding that “a few detainees have been held incommunicado for more than a year and their families are unaware of their fate”.

There are also “a growing number of allegations of ill-treatment of prisoners convicted on what appear to be politically motivated charges,” the Special Rapporteur said, while also pointing with concern to the intimidation of minorities and members of the LGBTIQ+ community and the “harassment” of family members of “extremists” living in exile.

Special Rapporteurs

Appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and forming part of it Special proceduresSpecial Rapporteurs have the mandate to monitor and assess the rights situation in specific thematic or country situations.

They work on an individual basis, are not UN staff and receive no salary.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top