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The right to fair elections and peaceful protests: NHC joins call to invoke Moscow mechanism in Belarus

19 August 2020

The Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC) expresses its solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of peaceful protestors in Belarus against the manipulation of the elections of 9 August by the government. The NHC condemns the extraordinary use of violence by the security forces against many of the protesters, and calls for release and rehabilitation of detained protesters and political prisoners and an investigation into all cases of ill-treatment.

In the aftermath of the election, an estimated 7000 protesters have been arrested in Belarus, while hundreds of civilians have been wounded and at least two killed. Hundreds of detained protesters spoke of severe beatings, torture and ill-treatment after their release and the media has been flooded with images and videos that confirm their stories. An unknown number of protesters remain in detention, while relatives and friends are in many cases desperately seeking to know the whereabouts and status of their loved ones.

In response, the NHC welcomes the upcoming emergency summit of the European Council and agrees with the Council’s President Charles Michel that the election process cannot be accepted and that “the people of Belarus have the right to determine their own future. To allow for this, violence has to stop and a peaceful and inclusive dialogue has to be launched. The leadership of Belarus must reflect the will of the people.” We also welcome the steps taken by some of the EU member states, such as the support of Lithuania for the people of Belarus.

The NHC calls on the government of Belarus to accept the offer of the OSCE Chairmanship to support and open a constructive dialogue and engage with all stakeholders in the country. We furthermore support the EU-wide assessment that the results of the elections as presented by the Belarus Central Election Commission cannot be accepted, and welcome the Dutch government’s support for invoking the Moscow mechanism to investigate the events surrounding the elections in Belarus. As stipulated in a statement by the Civic Solidarity Platform, this is “the most relevant and expedient way to hold an internationally trusted investigation into the events in Belarus”.

Furthermore, together with eight other members of the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD), a worldwide network of non-profit organizations that aim to strengthen democracy, we have signed a statement urging EU Members States and institutions to support human rights and democracy in Belarus. Read the full statement here.

About the NHC

The Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC) is a non-governmental organization that operates within the OSCE-area. It contributes to dialogue and cooperation between states and civil society in the area of rule of law and human rights. Founded in 1987, the NHC represented Dutch civil society in the Helsinki Process, following the examples of sister Helsinki Committees from across the OSCE area. NHC’s current activities include human rights defence, integrity and accountability, access to justice and criminal justice reform.