The Government have welcomed the publication of the report by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) independent rapporteur, Professor Wolfgang Benedek, on Belarus. The report was initiated under the Moscow mechanism to consider alleged human rights violations related to the presidential elections in Belarus on 9 August 2020.
As I noted in my statement to the House of 24 September, alongside 16 other participating states at the OSCE on 17 September, the United Kingdom invoked the Moscow mechanism of the human dimension of the OSCE. This triggered an independent investigation into credible reports of electoral fraud and human rights violation before, during and after the presidential elections in Belarus. The investigation commenced on 30 September and is now complete. The report was formally presented to the OSCE Permanent Council on 5 November 2020 and was welcomed by all 17 invoking states in a joint statement. The UK also made a national statement to welcome its publication.
Belarus refused to co-operate with the rapporteur or allow him access to the country. Nevertheless, the report draws heavily on evidence and observations from international organisations and mechanisms, as well as more than 700 submissions from Belarusian citizens and organisations.
The findings of the report are clear.
The report concludes that the allegations that the elections were not transparent, as well as neither free nor fair, are accurate and well evidenced. The report notes that from the selection of the national electoral commission through to vote counting, Belarus fell short of its international commitments and of the basic requirements of previous OSCE and Council of Europe election monitoring reports.
The report finds that the allegations of human rights violations have been proven beyond doubt and that the Belarusian authorities have carried out violations on a massive and systematic scale. The report highlights the environment of impunity that exists in Belarus; no one has been held accountable for the well documented cases of torture and inhumane treatment by the security forces. The report also confirms that freedom of the media and the safety of journalists are under sustained attack in Belarus.
The report makes 82 recommendations to the Belarusian authorities including new presidential elections, an immediate end to the violence and release of all those illegally detained, an independent oversight mechanism on detention conditions, and an investigation into all allegations of torture.
The Government call on Belarus to implement all of the recommendations included in the report. Further, the report makes 16 recommendations to OSCE participants and the wider international community. The UK has already begun to implement the majority of these recommendations. In addition, the UK supports the recommendation that Belarus must hold new elections and that a detailed and thorough investigation in the human rights violations is required.
A copy of the report is being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.