Belgium and 16 other states launch an independent investigation process into human rights violations in Belarus

Belgium is following the situation in Belarus closely and with growing concern. In recent weeks, credible reports of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country have continued to multiply. Therefore, on 17 September 2020, Belgium decided to invoke, together with 16 other participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a mechanism to mandate an expert mission to examine these concerns, to provide recommendations and to advice on possible solutions.

"This joint initiative within the OSCE responds to the need for an independent investigation into human rights violations and abuses in Belarus, which is becoming increasingly urgent given the lack of improvement on the ground," explains Foreign Affairs and Defense Minister Philippe Goffin.

 
Worrying situation in Belarus

Before, during and after the presidential elections of 9 August 2020 in Belarus, Belgium, together with its European partners, has expressed in many international forums its concerns about particularly serious threats to Belarus' human rights commitments during this period. These concerns include the intimidation and persecution of political activists, candidates, journalists, media workers, lawyers, trade union and human rights activists, as well as the detention of potential candidates; electoral fraud; and obstacles to the dissemination of information; excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators; arbitrary or illegal arrest or detention; beatings; sexual and gender-based violence; abductions and enforced disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and widespread impunity for all such abuses.

The international community has repeatedly called on the Belarusian authorities to engage in an inclusive national dialogue and to end the violence against the Belarusian people as they continue their commitment to a democratic future.

 
Activation of the "Moscow Mechanism""

Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the United States invoked the "Moscow Mechanism" on September 17. This is a tool provided for by the OSCE's Human Dimension commitments. In the coming days, an expert will be formally appointed by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). It is possible that two other experts may be added to the mission at a later stage, if the Belarusian authorities so wish. Once the mission is formed, it will be able to begin its investigation which will result in a report on the facts it has been able to establish, with possible recommendations to Belarus, the OSCE and the international community in general.

Minister Goffin hopes that the results of the investigation can contribute positively to the return of a climate conducive to an inclusive national dialogue in Belarus. In parallel, Belgium continues to support the efforts of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Prime Minister and Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, Edi Rama, and the future OSCE Chairperson, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, who have offered their assistance to Belarus to facilitate the national dialogue. The OSCE has the necessary tools to act as an impartial intermediary in such a crisis.