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New Resolution of the UN HRC: A Step towards Accountability?

Expert Opinion from NAM Lawyers

In light of the adoption of the new United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Belarus, numerous statements have been made about its significance in establishing accountability for serious human rights violations and international crimes committed in Belarus.

As the NAM works towards ensuring justice in Belarus and considers it essential to prioritize objectivity in the interest of victims, we would like to share our perspective on the importance of the new resolution.

The new resolution undoubtedly strengthens the potential of existing human rights mechanisms. It establishes the creation of a group of three independent experts on the human rights situation in Belarus, to be renewed annually. The group's tasks will include:

  • Conducting investigations and establishing facts regarding serious human rights violations in Belarus since May 1, 2020;

  • Gathering, summarizing, preserving, and analyzing evidence of such violations, and where possible, identifying those responsible for the purpose of conducting appropriate judicial and other proceedings, including criminal prosecution;

  • Providing recommendations, particularly regarding measures for accountability;

  • Engaging with all stakeholders, particularly Belarusian actors, and when appropriate, with the authorities in Belarus.

Despite the announcement of the creation of a new mechanism, the de facto reform of the previously existing group of three experts, which was under the mandate of OHCHR, is taking place. In accordance with the new resolution, the group receives independent status, but fully retains the areas of its activities that existed previously. It is additionally given the power to identify those responsible for serious human rights violations. It is planned that the reformed mechanism will “inherit” the results of previous work.

The new status of this group will help maintain the independence and objectivity of expert assessments, excluding possible political influence on conclusions and recommendations.

NAM fully welcomes and supports such strengthening of the capacity of the human rights mechanism for Belarus and is grateful to the organizations that have made a significant contribution to its reform.

At the same time, NAM considers it necessary to note that statements that the reformed group “was created for the purpose of bringing the Lukashenko regime to responsibility for international crimes” are incorrect.

In order to avoid misleading interpretations of the resolution that create inflated expectations on the part of victims regarding the effectiveness of the process, NAM draws attention to the following key aspects of the accountability mechanism:

  1. First, it is worth noting that the term “crimes” is used exclusively in the context of criminal liability, which applies to individuals and not to the regime as a whole.

  2. Secondly, the resolution clearly states the exclusively recommendatory and advisory nature of the group’s work. The results of its activities do not lead to direct consequences for bringing the perpetrators to criminal liability.

  3. Thirdly, it must be taken into account that the group is a human rights institution with standards that differ from criminal mechanisms. The thresholds of proof under criminal standards are much higher and often the results of purely human rights work are not applicable to criminal proceedings. It should be noted that the work of documenting serious crimes in Belarus according to criminal law standards is carried out by theInternational Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB). Working according to different standards avoids duplicating the mandates of the two mechanisms and better serves the interests of victims.

Public statements aimed at restoring the rights of victims require a responsible approach based on the basic principle of “do no harm” and a victim-centered approach.




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