Opening Statement at the HRC 50 Side Event:
“Human Rights in Crisis, Belarus 2022 – A call for international action in the midst of a regional crisis”
As Delivered by U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Human Rights Council, Michèle Taylor
Thank you for organizing this important event. As Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine has consumed the world’s attention, we remind this body that we cannot forget the intensifying internal repression in Belarus. The people of Ukraine are fighting authoritarianism as they defend their democracy, freedom, and respect for their human rights. The people of Belarus, no less, are fighting authoritarianism in pursuit of these principles.
As President Biden announced last year, the United States will hold individuals to account for their roles in attacks on democracy and human rights, and for acts of corruption and transnational repression.
The United States condemns the Lukashenka regime’s increasingly brutal repression, including its efforts to intimidate the pro-democracy movement and those who oppose Russia’s war in Ukraine — and Belarus’ actions to facilitate that war. This repression has only intensified since the sham Constitutional referendum earlier this year that was designed to strengthen Lukashenka’s grip on power.
Indeed, the regime recently amended the criminal code to allow for the use of the death penalty against individuals convicted of “attempted acts of terrorism.” It has been using this tactic to silence opposition voices. We condemn the regime’s fabrication of politically motivated charges of “extremism” and “terrorism” against many of the more than 1,200 political prisoners it unjustly holds and against tens of thousands more it has unjustly detained. We call for their immediate release.
We are deeply disturbed by the increasingly lengthy prison sentences for those unjustly held, such as political prisoner Viachaslau Maleichuk, sentenced to 22 years imprisonment in a high-security penal colony on fabricated charges of “terrorism.”
The United States stands with the people of Belarus, who over the past two years have continued to stand up for their rights in the face of brutal authoritarianism, often at grave personal cost. The Belarusian people have demonstrated time and time again that the regime cannot silence their calls for democracy. Only a national dialogue inclusive of civil society and of the democratic movement will lead Belarus out of its current political stalemate, and to a future democratic and prosperous Belarus.