Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Moscow Mechanism Report on Belarus – UK statement to the OSCE [May 2023]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 11 May 2023.

At OSCE Permanent Council UK says the extent of repression and the number of political prisoners in Belarus is staggering.

Thank you, Mr Chair. The UK fully subscribes to the statement delivered by Ambassador Grønbech-Jensen on behalf of the 38 invoking States and would like to add some points in our national capacity. I want to thank Professor Ascensio and his team for this credible and important report and commend those who shared their testimonies with him.

Mr. Chair, the Moscow Mechanism report from November 2020 noted “massive and systematic” violations of fundamental freedoms by the Belarusian authorities. It is deeply concerning that this trend has not only continued but in fact further intensified:

  • A large part of civil society has been destroyed by the State.
  • Peaceful demonstrations are routinely and brutally repressed.
  • One quarter of all civil society groups have now been forced to close, including children’s rights groups and organisations working to support other vulnerable members of society.

The extent of repression and the number of political prisoners is staggering. The report concludes that “Belarus is implementing a broad policy of arbitrary arrest and detention”. Belarus is holding almost 1,500 of its citizens as political prisoners. Many prisoners are subject to torture and cruel and degrading treatment.

I would like to take this opportunity as my colleagues did to raise one such case; that of former presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka. Mr Babaryka has been hospitalised in unclear circumstances amid reports of brutal treatment in prison.

We call upon the Belarusian authorities to ensure his safety and provide him with immediate and proper medical care. Moreover, we urge them to release Viktar Babaryka and all other political prisoners immediately and unconditionally.

The report also highlights the recent legislative and constitutional changes in Belarus which have “facilitated the operation of an authoritarian regime”. These include amendments to undermine freedom of speech and association, restrict political rights, and extend the death penalty. The amendments further demonstrate the disregard and contempt of the Lukashenko regime for basic democratic freedoms and the rule of law.

As Professor Ascensio notes, the Belarusian government has even violated its own constitution to support Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine. They have used this illegal war as a means of justifying their own illegal repression, violently supressing peaceful anti-war protests and arresting those who disagree with the war.

The UK is committed to ensuring that all those responsible for these human rights violations are held accountable. We welcome the ongoing work of the International Accountability Platform for Belarus and UN OHCHR in documenting and preserving evidence. As Ambassador Grønbech-Jensen stated, impunity is not an option.

We deeply regret and condemn the lack of cooperation by the Belarusian authorities throughout this process. We urge Belarus to immediately cease ongoing human rights violations, including the systematic repression of civil society, independent media, opposition groups, and trade unionists. And once again we urge the Belarusian authorities to respond to this report and fully implement their international obligations and OSCE commitments.

Thank you, Mr Chair.