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The U.S. is gravely concerned about the human rights situation in Belarus
June 4, 2013

U.S. Intervention on
Individual Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Belarus

As delivered by Ambassador Eileen C. Donahoe

Human Rights Council 23rd Session
June 4, 2013


Thank you Mister President.  The United States would like to thank the Special Rapporteur for his initial report, and echoes many of the concerns outlined therein.  The United States is gravely concerned about the human rights situation in Belarus, and the lack of progress made on many of the High Commissioner’s recommendations.

As the Special Rapporteur pointed out in his report, in 2012 the government further restricted human rights, including: freedom of expression for citizens as well as members of the press, and freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, religion, and movement.  The United States would like to commend the Special Rapporteur for his recommendations on protecting human rights defenders and journalists from harassment, intimidation and violence, as a result of their activities.

According to Freedom House’s recently released “Press Freedom Index,” Belarus ranks among the five worst countries in the world in terms of freedom of the press and suppression of civil liberties.  The state-controlled press distribution monopoly severely limits the availability of private newspapers.  In addition, the authorities routinely censor and harass the few remaining independent media sources.  Security forces continually hampered efforts of independent journalists to cover demonstrations and protests in Minsk and across the country.  Authorities harassed, arrested, and assaulted journalists as well as revoked journalists’ licenses to practice.

The United States welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation to respect freedom of expression through use of Internet-based media, including in publicly accessible spaces, and to repeal regulations that grant the Government powers to censor the press.  In the past year, the Government has continued to interfere with Internet freedom and actively monitored e‑mail and Internet chat rooms to suppress dissidents.  Government Internet providers blocked independent and opposition websites during major political events, such as elections or demonstrations.  Online activists were repeatedly harassed, arrested, and interrogated.

The United States would like to encourage the Special Rapporteur to expand the scope of his focus beyond the issues he has already outlined as priorities, and calls upon the Government of Belarus to grant immediate access to the Special Rapporteur.

While we disagree with some of the Special Rapporteur’s interpretations of international obligations and recommendations regarding capital punishment, it is clear that Belarus does not respect its obligations when it comes to an independent judiciary, fair trial guarantees, and effective appeals.

The United States believes that extending the Special Rapporteur’s mandate will enable the Special Rapporteur to continue his work and will be particularly beneficial for continuing his support of civil society. We would like to end by asking a question:

QUESTION: What advice does the Special Rapporteur have for increasing the capacity of Belarus to achieve his recommendation on promptly investigating allegations of violent incidents occurring due to actual or perceived sexual orientation?

Thank you Mister President.