International Observation Mission in Belarus: six months of work in the country
The International Observation Mission in Belarus was established on December 27th, 2010 by the decision of the Committee on International Control over the Situation with Human Rights in Belarus. In fact, after the closure of the OSCE office in Belarus, the Mission turned out to be the only international actor carrying out permanent monitoring of the human rights situation in the country.
The International Observation Mission acts on the basis of the principles of transparency and rule of law, as well as the international human rights norms, in particular the UN Declaration “On the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” and the basic OSCE documents, according to which Belarus has committed itself not only to refrain from impediments to activities on protecting human rights and monitoring their observance, but also to facilitate them.
Over the past 6 months:
1. The Mission involved in its work 55 human rights defenders and civil society activists from the OSCE participating states, mainly from Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Armenia.
2. Mission representatives were present as observers during 18 searches carried out by officers of the KGB and other security agencies in the offices of civil society organizations and the apartments of journalists and human rights defenders. Mission representatives also monitored 52 court hearings on cases related to the events of December 19th, 2010.
3. The Mission carried out permanent monitoring of the situation, paying particular attention to:
- the situation of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, as specific professional civil society groups that fall under pressure and persecution due to their professional activities;
- the situation with the fundamental human rights in Belarus in general and, above all, with the right to freedom of association, freedom of expression, to a fair trial, etc.;
- guarantees of the fair trial in the trials of defendants in criminal cases on the events of December 19th, 2010.
More than 500 violations of international commitments on human rights were identified during the work of the Mission, including episodes of pressure and persecution of human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists. Most of these facts are reflected in the analytical materials regularly issued by the Mission. More information is available on the website of the Committee: https://hrwatch-by.org/en/iom/analytics.
The materials of the analytical reviews were sent to specialized international institutions (in particular, to the UN special rapporteurs, Special Representative on the freedom of expression and other bodies of the OSCE, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and other EU structures), were used by them in preparing their assessments of the human rights situation in Belarus and were directly quoted in:
- the Interim Assessment of the events of December 19th by the Special Rapporteur of the Committee on International Control over the Situation with Human Rights in Belarus;
- the report on Belarus by the OSCE Rapporteur in the framework of the "Moscow Mechanism";
- the materials of the Rapporteur on Belarus of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights;
- and other international institutions.
The analytical reviews and the recommendations contained in them were regularly sent to the state authorities of the Republic of Belarus.
4. During its work the Mission has released seven statements reflecting the assessment of international human rights defenders and recommendations for changing the situation on the most urgent cases of violations of international human rights obligations by the authorities of the Republic of Belarus. Full texts of the statements are available on the website of the Committee: https://hrwatch-by.org/en/iom/statements.
5. The Mission has established working contacts with:
- Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights;
- OSCE Rapporteur in the framework of the Moscow Mechanism;
- OSCE Chairmanship;
- Rapporteurs on Belarus of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the PACE Political Affairs Committee;
- Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe;
- Subcommittee on Human Rights, Committee on Foreign Affairs and Delegation for relations with Belarus of the European Parliament;
- Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights of the Russian Federation;
- diplomatic missions of the Council of Europe and OSCE participating states, working in Belarus.
6. With the direct assistance from the Mission:
- the Committee of International Control acknowledged those convicted in trials on the December 19th cases as political prisoners and demanded an immediate review of all the court cases;
- the other structures of the Committee on International Control are functioning, in particular, the Special Rapporteur on the events of December 19th, 2010, the Special Commission on entry to the Republic of Belarus, etc.;
- the Committee, together with the leading Belarusian human rights and civil society organizations, regularly presents the information on the human rights situation in Belarus, as well as recommendations for changing it, to various international and intergovernmental bodies (UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, EU, etc.).
7. In its work the International Observation Mission faced serious impediments by the Belarusian authorities, in particular, detention of the Mission representatives in courts, in the flats where human rights defenders lived, at press-conferences (5 episodes), as well as deportation and inclusion of human rights defenders into the lists of persons whose presence on the territory of Belarus is undesirable (in total – 10 Mission representatives, including the head of the Mission Andrey Yurov).
Despite of this, the International Observation Mission intends to continue its work in Belarus, building on the principle of civil solidarity and acknowledging that human rights situation in any country is the subject to direct and legitimate concern of the international community.
June 28th, 2011