Statement by Ambassador Sven Jürgenson at UN Security Council AOB on Belarus

Estonia, France and Ireland supported by Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, asked to discuss the blatant act by the Belarusian authorities forcing to land the passenger plane on the 23rd of May, under any other business today in the Council.

We ended the last Security Council informal briefing on Belarus with a hope that grave human rights violations in Belarus will end soon. Unfortunately, the situation has not improved, on the contrary – it has aggravated. The regime in Belarus is trampling on human rights of its citizens with growing cruelty. The number of political prisoners in Belarus has reached record-high, exceeding 400. The hijacking of a plane is yet another escalation in the crackdown of dissenting voices. It constitutes a new and extremely dangerous phase in the Belarusian authorities` campaign of repression against its own people. It is a clear example how the grave human rights violations often lead to serious international security threats.

The civilian airplane, owned by an EU company, flying between two EU capitals and carrying more than 100 passengers, was forced to land using false grounds by a Belarusian military aircraft.  We strongly condemn the forced landing and the detention of journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega. This act is an attack against international civilian aviation safety, in clear violation with the international law and poses a threat to international peace and security.

Public confidence in the security of air transport is vital. This Council has said that all States have the responsibility to protect the security of citizens and nationals of all nations against attacks on air services operating within their territory, in a manner consistent with existing obligations under international law (UNSCR 2309 (2016).

Estonia calls on the International Civil Aviation Organization to urgently investigate this unprecedented and unacceptable incident and for full accountability for those responsible.

We demand the immediate release of Mr Pratasevich and Ms. Sapega who were detained by the Belarusian authorities.  We are deeply concerned about Mr Pratasevich’s treatment in detention, where the use of torture by security forces has been widely documented, in particular following the recent death in prison of another political prisoner Vitold Ashurak.

Just as the people of Belarus do not tire of standing up for their basic human rights and resisting violence, the international community must maintain its focus on what is going on in Belarus. The leaders of the EU decided to respond swiftly and firmly by adopting concrete measures on this Monday: they called on all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus and EU member states will ban an overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by such airlines. The leaders also decided to impose further restrictive measures against the regime in Belarus, including targeted economic sanctions.

We call upon all governments who value safety of civilian air-traffic to send out a united condemnation of this violation of the international law. We hope that also this Council will pronounce itself on this flagrant violation soon.