Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya's speech at UN side event

“Dear Minister, Dear UN Special Rapporteur, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for this opportunity to speak in front of you.

We gathered today because the human rights situation in Belarus is critical. And it is getting worse day by day. When we think that a new low point has been reached, a new wave of human rights abuses overwhelms Belarus.

If we look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, almost every single right spelled out has been violated by the Belarusian government. There are 255 political prisoners in Belarusian prisons today, with over 1000 people targeted by criminal cases during the election campaign and in the post-election period. We call for their immediate and unconditional release.

First, they came for presidential candidates and political activists, then they came for lawyers, now they came for human rights defenders and journalists, and they are also coming for any Belarusians every day. But we will not be silent and will not stop denouncing what is happening.

Two days ago, a wave of searches of human rights defenders’ homes and offices took place. This wave spread throughout the country to the regional centers and smaller towns.

Belarusian Association of Journalists and Human Rights Center “Viasna” were at the center of this repressive campaign. Those very organizations have been on the frontline of providing legal assistance and defending the freedom of expression. The authorities are trying to tarnish their reputation by accusing them of financing the protests and that they are involved in extremist activities. There is no line the regime is not ready to cross.

And it is not a coincidence that last week Marfa Rabkova, coordinator of the Viasna volunteer service, faced additional criminal charges. Under the new charges, Marfa Rabkova faces up to 12 years in prison. The smear campaign in the state media is just another element of this disgraceful attack on human rights defenders. We stand by Marfa Rabkova, Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Viasna for human rights.

Belarusian Association of Journalists is an exemplary organization that was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2004 for protecting journalists working under the threat of harassment, intimidation, and persecution. We stand by Barys Haretski, Aleh Aheyeu, and the Belarusian Association of Journalists for freedom of expression.

Telling the truth does not go unpunished in Belarus as Katsyaryna Andrejeva and Darya Chultsova have learned today. They were sentenced to 2 years in prison just a couple of hours ago. They have been imprisoned for reporting live from a peaceful rally with people protesting against the killing of Raman Bandarenka by Lukashenka’s cronies.

I am saddened that neither the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights nor Special Rapporteur on Belarus’s human rights situation has had access to the country since August 2020. However, I am not surprised.

Nevertheless, we need to make sure that the UN uses all available tools and mechanisms to put an end to the impunity within the government and special forces. I call for an independent, impartial, and transparent international investigation of the grave human rights abuses. The UN mechanisms and OSCE Moscow Mechanism should align their efforts in this direction. It is time for accountability. All the perpetrators should be brought to justice for the peaceful transition to take place.

Belarus has obligations under international human rights law, but it has ignored the Human Rights Council and High CommIssioner’s recommendations for years. It is outrageous that Belarus is one of the UN founding members, but it disregards this system’s very foundations.

Belarusians want the Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights obligations to be duly applied. We should start with Article 21: the will of the people shall be the basis of a government authority. What is happening at the moment is not based on the will of the people. Belarusians want their freedom and dignity back. Belarusians demand new elections.

Thank you!”.

18 February 2021 в 14:25