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Ambassador Donahoe: U.S. Gravely Concerned About Human Rights Situation in Belarus
Interactive Dialogue: High Commissioner Report on Belarus
June 27, 2012

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
As Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
Human Rights Council 20th Session
June 27, 2012

Thank you, Madame President.

The United States is gravely concerned about the human rights situation in Belarus, particularly in the past year since this situation was last addressed by the Human Rights Council in Resolution 17/24.  We thank the High Commissioner for her comprehensive report on the human rights situation in Belarus, which highlights the situation has deteriorated significantly since the last—deeply flawed— presidential election.

The High Commissioner’s report leaves no doubt that the Belarusian government has significantly curtailed the freedoms of association, assembly and expression, and the right to a fair trial.  The United States is deeply concerned about the suppression of these and other fundamental freedoms and human rights.  These findings clearly demonstrate the need to address the situation in Belarus through the establishment of a robust mechanism, especially in light of Belarus’ refusal to engage existing mandates.

The High Commissioner’s report further highlights several measures in which the Belarusian government repressed the freedom of the press, including: an inherently restrictive media law, the censorship of television and radio programs, and the ongoing beatings and other mistreatment of journalists, particularly those affiliated with the opposition.  We would like to emphasize that the report highlights that this and other mistreatment has continued and worsened over the past year.

The United States is deeply concerned about the report’s findings on the Belarusian government’s crackdown against human rights activists and defenders, journalists and independent media, and civil society.  As Secretary Clinton has said, “Each time a reporter is silenced, or an activist is threatened, it doesn’t strengthen a government, it weakens a nation.”

We also draw the Council’s attention to one issue, freedom of movement, not addressed in the report, as the reporting period of the current report stops shortly before this pattern started to emerge in reports.  It is our understanding that severe restrictions on individuals’ freedom movement have occurred since March 2012.  These come in the form of travel bans, both for individuals leaving and entering the country, and target civil society activists and human rights defenders.  We believe that this, along with the long list of other violations and restrictions, warrants the creation of a stronger mechanism to more closely monitor and report on the situation, such as the creation of a Special Rapporteur.  We ask the High Commissioner’s Office if you have any reaction to this particular trend and can share with the Council your view on these new restrictions.

As the High Commissioner’s report concludes, the suppression of human rights in Belarus is of a systematic nature, and we believe it must be handled in a systematic manner.  It is clear that the government of Belarus is not cooperating with the last resolution.  Nor has it adopted any of the preliminary recommendations proposed by the Deputy High Commissioner during the Oral Report of the High Commissioner at the eighteenth session.

The United States believes that the creation of a Special Rapporteur will encourage the government of Belarus to release political prisoners, stop oppressive measures taken against journalists and human rights activists and defenders, and stop the crackdown on civil society.

Thank you, Madame President.