35 OSCE states invoke Vienna Mechanism in relation to serious human rights violations in Belarus

On November 4, Neil Bush, Head of the United Kingdom’s Delegation to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, delivered a statement on behalf of 35 OSCE states to invoke the Vienna Mechanism in relation to serious human rights violations in Belarus.

The Vienna Mechanism, adopted at the Vienna follow-up meeting in 1989, provides for the exchange of information on questions relating to the human dimension.

Since the publication of the Moscow Mechanism report almost a year ago, the situation in Belarus has deteriorated, the diplomat stresses. According to him, instead of seeing a move towards a resolution of the crisis in Belarus, the situation has worsened and the Belarusian authorities’ response has continued to be inadequate.

“Therefore, in response to the Belarusian authorities’ failure to respond satisfactorily to the 5 November 2020 Moscow Mechanism report, and considering our additional concerns over ongoing developments in the last 12 months, our countries are today invoking the Vienna (Human Dimension) Mechanism and Belarus’ commitments under that Mechanism,” the statement reads.

Among other things, the 35 OSCE states are concerned about freedom of peaceful assembly and media freedom in Belarus; continued arbitrary or unjust arrests or detention; targeting of opposition figures; cases of torture; fostering irregular migration by the Belarusian authorities.

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In accordance with Belarus’ OSCE commitments under the Vienna (Human Dimension) Mechanism, the signers requested ‘concrete and substantial responses’ to the following:

  • Have steps been taken by the Belarusian authorities to investigate allegations that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is being unduly restricted, that individuals are being arbitrarily detained or arrested, and that numbers of political prisoners are increasing?
  • Have steps been taken to investigate all allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment?
  • Have steps been taken to investigate allegations of hate crimes, including the use of state controlled media or social media accounts to incite violence?
  • Have steps been taken to ensure the ability of civil society and media actors to freely document and report, without reprisal, on human rights concerns in Belarus?
  • What steps are being taken by the Belarusian authorities to ensure it is not facilitating irregular migration (to other OSCE participating States) which puts vulnerable people at risk, impacts on their human rights, and has a destabilising effect on regional security?
  • What engagement has there been with the OSCE’s institutions, including ODIHR and RFoM, to respond to concerns raised by those institutions, and to help realise full compliance with OSCE commitments?
  • Have meaningful steps been taken, including through the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, to engage with the opposition, independent civil society and human rights defenders?

The statement was signed by representatives of Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, The Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and the United States. The above mentioned OSCE participating states expect to receive information in response to these serious concerns in writing within 10 days.

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