OSCE PA human rights leaders urge international attention on the situation in Belarus, call for release of political prisoners

COPENHAGEN, 1 February 2021 – Recent reports of conditions for detained protesters in Belarus, including widespread allegations of abuse and torture, must be addressed by the international community, said leaders of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s human rights committee today. They highlighted several ongoing cases of political prisoners, including that of Igor Losik, who recently ended a 42-day hunger strike, and called on the Belarusian authorities to accept visits from international organizations to learn more about the situation in prisons.

“The information we are receiving from Belarus is highly disturbing,” said OSCE PA human rights committee Chair Kyriakos Hadjiyianni (Cyprus). “Belarus must release those being held on dubious grounds, including Igor Losik, the founder and administrator of the Telegram messaging app who is facing years in prison simply for facilitating communication. This cannot reasonably be considered a ‘disruption of public order’ as the authorities claim.”

Committee Vice-Chair Michael Georg Link (Germany) stressed that the international community should hold Belarus accountable for human rights violations. “The OSCE and other international organizations must increase the pressure on the authorities in Minsk to respect the obligations and commitments that they have freely agreed to,” Link said. “The reports of torture and the lack of accountability are particularly troubling. With victims of torture rather than perpetrators being prosecuted it is up to the international community to help ensure justice.”

Committee Rapporteur Kari Henriksen (Norway) said: “Since the beginning of unrest following the disputed presidential election last August, not a single criminal investigation has been opened against law enforcement officers despite many well documented cases of abuse. Meanwhile, hundreds of criminal investigations have been launched against peaceful protesters in what increasingly looks like a full-scale assault on dissent and fundamental freedoms. This repression must end.”

The OSCE PA human rights leaders also raised concerns over recent revelations alleging that a detention camp near Slutsk was used by authorities when protests broke out last August. Leaked photos appear to show prisoners confined in an encampment deep in the forest, surrounded by high fencing with barbed wire and watch towers. A leaked audio recording has also emerged in which a senior Belarusian Interior Ministry official is allegedly discussing plans to build an internment camp for political prisoners, prompting calls from the OSCE PA officials for an independent investigation.

The committee leaders also reiterated the recommendations of the OSCE Rapporteur’s Report under the Moscow Mechanism on Alleged Human Rights Violations related to the Presidential Elections of 9 August 2020, stressing the need to prosecute those accused of human rights violations in accordance with international standards. They assured Belarusian authorities that the OSCE PA is ready to discuss matters of concern in a spirit of open dialogue.

Hadjiyianni, Link and Henriksen are the Chair, Vice-Chair and Rapporteur, respectively, of the OSCE PA’s General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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