Crimes against humanity, including torture, continue in Belarus

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52nd regular session of the Human Rights Council

Interactive dialogue on report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Belarus

22 March 2022

Mr. President,

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) thanks the High Commission for the presented report.

We welcome its findings that certain human rights violations perpetrated in Belarus since 2020 amount to crimes against humanity.

This assessment is especially important as arbitrary detentions, unfair trials, torture and ill-treatment take place every day against anyone perceived as disloyal by the Belarusian authorities.

Torture, which takes place mainly in detention, appears to be invisible as detention facilities are isolated and even lawyers and relatives of detainees do not have access to them.

We document these violations even in relation to renowned human rights defenders.

A well-known human rights defender, Nasta Loika, who was arbitrarily detained in September 2022 and remains in pre-trial detention, was tortured with stun gun during the interrogation.

She was also forced to stay outside for long periods in low temperatures and to perform humiliating tasks in detention.

Ales Bialiatski, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Chairman of the Human Rights Center Viasna, and his colleagues Valiantsin Stefanovich and Uladzimir Labkovich, who were sentenced two weeks ago to between 7 and 10 years in prison, were kept handcuffed in a metal cage during the trial. This treatment is inhumane and degrading.

We call on the Human Rights Council to extend the mandate of OHCHR and to strengthen the existing mechanism.

We also ask the High Commissioner: do you think the massive crackdown against civil society in Belarus constitute a crime of persecution of a social group?