HRC53 – ID with SR on Belarus – Statement by Estonia on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden) to be delivered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia Mr Margus Tsahkna 5 July 2023

Mr. President,

I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries.

Madam Rapporteur, we thank you for the report and highly appreciate your work.

The human rights situation in Belarus is appalling. Since 2020, there have been hundreds of raids on media offices and private homes of journalists and media workers, who face serious legal consequences and prison sentences. Over 600 professionals have been arrested and more than 100 000 Belarusians have been forced into exile.

By allowing and enabling Russia to use the territory of Belarus for Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine, the leadership of Belarus is responsible for the act of the aggression. Those responsible must be held accountable for violations of international law. Since February 2022, over 1500 people have been detained and persecuted for their opposition to government, including for anti-war statements and for supporting Ukraine. New amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code allow trials in absentia on extremism charges. We call upon Belarus for immediate and unconditional release of all arbitrarily detained persons and for the charges against them to be dropped, including political prisoners, journalists and media workers. We also reiterate our call to introduce a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Disregarding the rights of the child, Belarus has started the militarization and politicization of school programs. Hundreds of Ukrainian children have also been allegedly forcibly transferred to Belarus, which implies that Lukashenko may be considered directly responsible for such a despicable war crime.

Madam Rapporteur, how can the international community ensure accountability for the persecution by the Belarusian authorities of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society organizations?

Thank you!