This joint report by Belarusian PEN Centre, Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP), International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and Truth Hounds, presents information obtained from monitoring by Belarusian PEN Centre as well as other local and international human rights defender organisations and provides an assessment of the human rights violations against creative professionals, activists and artists by the Belarusian authorities in response to the post-election protests in Belarus. The report focuses primarily on events documented between October 2020 and January 2021.
TO THE AUTHORITIES OF BELARUS:
- Undertake prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigations into all allegations of unlawful conduct detailed in this report by law enforcement officials against artists, creative professionals and cultural workers in connection with the peaceful protests held across Belarusian cities following the presidential election on 9 August 2020.
- Cease reprisals against artists, creative professionals and others for expressing their artistic views, political opinions and participating in peaceful protests.
- Immediately and unconditionally release all individuals who were imprisoned on politically-motivated grounds, as determined by human rights defenders and the international community.
- Ensure that artists, creative professionals and cultural workers, as well as all individuals deprived of their liberty in Belarus are afforded their rights under international fair trial standards and due process rights.
- Ensure that artists, creative professionals, cultural workers and all individuals deprived of their liberty are treated in line with international human rights standards including the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), the UN CAT and the ICCPR.
- Ensure that all those responsible for human rights violations, including those with command and supervision responsibility, are brought to justice in fair legal proceedings and in line with international human rights standards. All sanctions imposed should be commensurate with the severity of the violations committed.
- Provide reparations to victims of human rights violations including (as required by the UN CAT) by providing victims of torture with fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible, and providing dependants of victims who died as a result of an act of torture with compensation.
- Cease dismissals of employment and studies of artists, creative professionals, human rights defenders, students and university staff, as well as all of those willing to exercise their cultural rights, on the grounds of political opinion expressed by means of picketing, involvements in protests and solidarity actions, in social media, and by other means.
- Fully cooperate with the mission of independent experts under the Moscow Mechanism invoked on 17 September 2020, for the purpose of carrying out an impartial investigation of human rights violations committed in the context of the protests.
- Bring national legislation and practice on holding and policing assemblies into full compliance with international human rights standards. In particular, the authorities should ensure that peaceful assemblies can take place without interference, that any actions to disperse protests are used only as a last resort exclusively on grounds prescribed by international human rights law, and that the means employed for dispersal are strictly necessary and proportionate in any given situation.
WE REQUEST THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO:
- Insist that the Belarusian authorities put an end to ongoing post-election human rights violations and take urgent action to investigate all allegations of human rights violations perpetrated since 9 August 2020, election against artists, creative professionals, students and university staff, and all those willing to exercise their cultural rights. Urge that those responsible be brought to justice, in accordance with the recommendations made above.
- Ensure that political and economic engagement with the Belarusian government, as well as any financial assistance, is conditional on the conduct of independent investigations into, as well as accountability for, the human rights violations perpetrated since the election and on undertaking wider 39 reforms to safeguard the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens.
- Call for a new presidential election held in full compliance with international standards for free and fair elections, and unhindered monitoring by independent local and international observers.
- Call for the reinstatement of all workers and students dismissed from their studies and/or employment on political grounds.
WITH RESPECT TO EU ENGAGEMENT:
- Provide rapid financial assistance to support victims of repression in Belarus, in particular for the purpose of funding the rehabilitation of survivors of torture and ill-treatment and the relocation of victims who had to flee the country, while freezing EU fund transfers, and discontinuing loans to the current regime or state-controlled projects – in line with the resolution of the European Parliament of 17 September 2020.
- Continue investigations into the violations of the right to freedom of expression and that to freedom of artistic expression, as well as other human rights violations beyond the third round of sanctions and expand targeted sanctions against individuals in the Belarusian regime responsible for violating these rights, as well as those responsible for the falsification of the presidential election and the post-election crackdown on peaceful protesters.
- Prolong the restrictive measures against Belarus, including but not limited to an arms embargo and a ban on the export of goods for internal repression, until all those responsible for ongoing human rights violations are brought to justice, a free and fair presidential election is organised, and all political prisoners are released.
- Use universal jurisdiction as a critical tool to bring to justice the perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment and other serious human rights violations committed in Belarus in connection with the post-election crackdown.
- Ensure that independent cultural institutions and culture activists, including those forcefully removed from their positions in state institutions, are prioritised and given appropriate support (including financial) from international stakeholders such as the European Union.
- Provide financial support to civil society organisations that focus their activities (including on an urgent basis) on the protection and promotion of the rights and interests of artists and creative professionals.
- Provide urgent assistance to civil society organisations that offer a safe haven to artists and creative professionals ‘at risk’ including those who have been dismissed from their positions in government institutions or expelled from their studies.
- Provide visa assistance to artists and creative professionals at risk and ensure there are avenues available, should it be necessary, for emergency travel outside Belarus for security reasons in cooperation with diplomatic missions and civil society organisations.
- Actively support the development of the infrastructure of civil society organisations that provide services to members of creative unions, artists and cultural workers among the priorities of the support programmes.
WITH RESPECT TO THE UN WE URGE:
- The Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights to use all the mechanisms at her disposal to monitor, document and ensure the protection of cultural workers in Belarus.
- The inclusion of the implementation of cultural rights in Belarus and the observance of human rights in relation to cultural workers as an agenda item and immediate priority at future UNESCO meetings in conjunction with civil society organisations.
- That the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights is given a mandate to undertake an urgent visit to Belarus at the earliest opportunity.