We must bring what is happening in Belarus to the world’s attention and hear from those on the ground. Briefers on #BYHumanRights: UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Anaïs Marin; Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; Vice-Chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Center, Valiantsin Stefanovic; Legal Expert for the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Volha Siakhovich. The meeting is chaired by Urmas Reinsalu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia. The meeting was initiated by Estonia and co-sponsored by UN Security Council members the United States and United Kingdom, as well as Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine.

Statement by Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs at UN Security Council´s AOB on Belarus

Delivered by Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Urmas Reinsalu

We are deeply concerned with the situation in Belarus – the excessive use of force by the authorities in response to peaceful demonstrations in Minsk triggered by fraudulent elections.

The UN High Commissioner on Huma Rights issued a strong statement: „State authorities must allow and facilitate the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly and not repress it. People have the right to speak up and express dissent, even more in the context of elections, when democratic freedoms should be upheld, not suppressed.”

Situation is highly vulnerable. Some detainees have been released, but thousands remain imprisoned, hundreds are still missing. Hospitals are filled with people critically injured. Unprecedented number of people keep marching on the streets, many factories and public media workers are on strike.

The election results were faked, international independent observers were not present.  We have seen what happens in many parts of the world were free and fair elections fail and where legitimate grievances of people are not met. That is why this Council has often made calls for free and fair elections.

The road to less violent world is paved with relations of accountability between a state and a society. Maintaining peace depends on how states treat their own citizens. The unfolding tragedy in Belarus is a proof of that.

Grave human rights violations are threatening peace and security – this Council has made that link stating that severe human rights violations are an early warning indicator of conflict with international implication. The Council has also said that repression could amount to threats to international peace and security.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus in her yesterday´s statement sent out an early warning when she expressed serious concern over allegations of torture and other ill treatment of people, including minors, who were detained after demonstrations connected to elections. She said testimonies about their treatment in custody are deeply troubling.

The UN Security Council has a key responsibility in the prevention of violent conflict and mass atrocities. Therefore, early warning and awareness raising is our job. That is why we are discussing Belarus here today.

Using preventive diplomacy at all levels is of utmost importance for avoiding the escalation into violent conflict. Today’s meeting sends a signal that we are closely following the events in Belarus and make sure the Secretary-General receives the support necessary to use his preventive diplomacy toolbox where necessary.

This Council shall remain engaged with the situation and receive update of events if the developments so require. The Council shall hear direct information from the ground. The UN Resident Coordinator would be appropriate person for this.

We hope that all relevant stakeholders send out a clear message to Belarusian authorities to end destructive and hostile rhetoric towards the outside world.

Lukashenko is framing the peaceful protests as an extremist rebellion and is asking for foreign interference to help. Any outside interference threatens peace and security of Belarus and that of the wider region.

The peaceful demonstrators had clear demands – have a dialogue with the people, release all unlawfully detained people, prosecute those responsible for police brutality and holding new elections.

EU has decided on new listings for restrictive measures against those responsible for violence. EU convenes for a special session at the heads of states and government level tomorrow.