On November 4, 2021, 35 OSCE Participating States invoked the Vienna Mechanism and addressed human rights concerns regarding actions by the Government of Belarus, noting the mutual accountability shared amongst OSCE Participating States for full implementation of their OSCE commitments. It requested “concrete and substantial responses” to eight questions that summarised its principal concerns regarding the human rights situation in Belarus.
On 12 November 2021, Free Russia Foundation lodged a submission to the OSCE entitled “Concerning the Decision of 35 OSCE States to Invoke the Vienna Mechanism in Relation to Serious Human Rights Violations in Belarus.”
The submission was addressed to all 57 OSCE Participating States (including Belarus), as well as Helga Maria Schmid, OSCE Secretary General; Margareta Cederfelt, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly; Matteo Mecacci, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights; and Wolfgang Benedek, OSCE Rapporteur under the Moscow Mechanism on Alleged Human Rights Violations related to the Presidential Elections of 9 August 2020 in Belarus.
Free Russia Foundation has observed that the Government of Belarus has been unresponsive to OSCE concerns and has no intention to answer the questions. Belarusian civil society, on the other hand, is precluded from responding due to its well-founded fear of retribution and further persecution. Accordingly, Free Russia Foundation prepared this submission articulating responses to the eight questions by the 35 OSCE States.
The Submission asserts that:
- No steps have been taken by 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.
- On 26 August 2021, the Investigative Committee of Belarus announced that it would not criminally investigate or prosecute allegations by 680 persons regarding allegations of torture and other crimes under international law.
- Belarusian authorities incite hate and intolerance towards representatives of any political views that contradict the state and that their lack of a proper legal response to hate crimes creates an atmosphere of impunity for offenders.
- Belarusian authorities have hindered the ability of civil society and media actors to document and report on human rights concerns in Belarus and persecuted individuals and groups attempting to do so.
- Belarusian authorities have facilitated irregular migration (to other OSCE Participating States) which puts vulnerable people at risk, impacts on their human rights, and has a destabilizing effect on regional security. In doing so, they use people in a vulnerable position as an instrument of pressure on other countries.
- Belarusian authorities have disregarded its OSCE membership obligations by failing to substantively respond to human rights concerns identified by OSCE Participating States.
- The Government of Belarus has closed at least 185 organizations, arbitrarily arrested dozens of their associates and taken no meaningful steps to engage with civil society. Further, it has taken no steps to respond to the recommendations contained in the 5 November 2020 report under the Moscow Mechanism.
Free Russia Foundation (4freerussia.org) is an international NGO dedicated to advancing democratic development and supporting civil society with centers in Kyiv, Ukraine; Tbilisi, Georgia; Prague, Czechia; Berlin, Germany; Vilnius, Lithuania; and Washington, DC, US.
The submission was prepared in cooperation with Scott Martin of Global Rights Compliance (‘GRC’). GRC is an international LLP working on international human rights, international humanitarian law and environmental law matters throughout the world.
 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.