Norway would like to commend the Special Rapporteur for his comprehensive report on the human rights situation in Belarus. We fully endorse the conclusions of the report and would like to to underscore a few points in particular.
Norway is concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus. Especially disturbing is the resumption of execution of capital punishment. In 2016 four persons were executed, the highest number since 2008. This year, three death sentences have been handed down, the most recent on March 17. Thus, Belarus is the only country in Europe and in the former Soviet area that retains the death penalty. A number of inalienable rights have been violated, not only of the convicted person, but certainly also of their families. Long-term international experience does not support the official view that capital punishment has any preventive effect, especially since the executions are surrounded by a secrecy and lack of transparency that itself could amount to torture.
Belarus should take immediate steps to abolish the death penalty or, at least, adopt a moratorium as soon as possible
Norway also notes with concern that fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression are under increasing pressure. Following the demonstrations in Minsk in March this year, close to 100 detentions and 40 administrative trials against journalists were reported. Many were harassed and severely beaten. But also users of online media and social platforms are being harassed as an expression of the authorities’ suppression policies. The report also underscores restrictions on freedom of association and of peaceful assembly. Likewise, human rights defenders and human rights activists continue to be followed, supervised and harassed, often in very brutal ways.
Open political opposition as expressed by civil society activists in writing, speaking, participating in meetings and various assemblies, also demonstrating in public, is the hallmark of a healthy democracy.
Norway strongly encourages the authorities of Belarus to cooperate closely with the UN Special Rapporteur. The Special Rapporteur should be given free and uninhibited access to relevant actors and interlocutors in the country in the interest of strengthening the human rights in Belarus.
As you have pointed out in your report, the human rights situation in Belarus has deteriorated dramatically during the period under review. We also understand that your work has encountered difficulties from the authorities.
What is needed, in your opinion, to facilitate your access to Belarus and organizing the meetings and contacts necessary to fulfill your mandate?