MEPs and experts discussed the latest developments in Belarus, including possible international legal paths to bring regime officials guilty of human rights violations to justice, on Friday.
During the debate, most of the invited speakers outlined the unprecedented and large-scale continuous repression of the Belarusian people, affecting almost all sectors of society, including vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly. Belarusian human rights defenders called on the European Parliament to support the monitoring, documenting and investigations of human rights violations in the country. They also called for further targeted EU sanctions and the initiation of universal criminal jurisdiction cases, in order to fight impunity.
The international community needs to be united on Belarus
Speakers from international and regional organisations dealing with human rights issues presented the ongoing and planned initiatives regarding the monitoring of the situation and stressed the necessity for coordination and synergy within the international community to really help the people of Belarus with standing up for their rights. Elected parliamentarians have a particular responsibility in this respect and must take the lead in contributing meaningfully to this effort.
Some of the guest speakers called on the European Parliament and the EU as a whole to explore all possible international legal paths to end impunity for the ongoing regime crimes in Belarus, including applying universal criminal jurisdictions to bring perpetrators to justice.
Other experts highlighted the fact that there are some examples of international criminal jurisdiction being exercised in the past, while stressing that the possibilities for the international community to act against Belarus depends on what kind of treaties the country has ratified and its readiness to cooperate.
Parliament will continue working with its international partners
Members underlined the importance of a strong united stance by the EU, its member states and institutions, and of the EU’s continued leading role in the efforts of the international community to stop the ongoing brutal repressions and bring perpetrators to justice. They also stressed that the European Parliament could continue to build on the long-standing contacts it has with its international partners and human rights defenders, civil society organisations and independent media in Belarus, in order to support the country’s democratic forces.
Responsible parliamentary bodies will now consider concrete follow-up on the ideas put forward during the meeting and further ways on how to use the available structures and resources to meaningfully support the Belarusian people in their fight for democratic change and justice.
You can watch the debate again here (16.10.2020)
“The level of brutality used to suppress peaceful protests has been increasing again, as we heard in the testimonies of the Belarusian human rights defenders. The serious human rights violations that are being committed in Belarus cannot go unpunished. The perpetrators, from the leadership to masked thugs on the streets, must know that they will be brought to justice for their deeds. I look forward to continuing our joint efforts to engage with the independent voices of Belarus for a peaceful transition to democracy”, said David McAllister (EPP, DE), Chair of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
“The fight against impunity for human rights abuses and violations becomes more universal. Nobody can hide, nobody can escape the responsibility that comes with acts of violence and torture. It is our willingness to actively support and cooperate with international and regional investigative tools and mechanisms. It is clear that there is a strong desire from Parliament for immediate action in favour of justice and accountability in Belarus.”, said Maria Arena (S&D, BE), Chair of Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights.
“Sadly, regime violence and repression are now “business as usual” in Belarus. In the past months, peaceful protesters, women, students, strikers, civil society activists and independent journalists have been harassed, arrested and detained by the thousands. We have received numerous reports of appalling police brutality and torture in prisons. It is high time for the EU to step up its work in helping the Belarusian democratic forces more concretely, because at the moment, the Union is not doing enough”, said Robert Biedroń (S&D, PL), Chair of Parliament’s delegation for relations with Belarus.
“The European Parliament has always been at the frontline when it comes to defending and promoting human rights. Therefore, it is all the more important that we assume a leadership role when it comes to shaping a dialogue with all the main stakeholders involved in international investigations of crimes committed against the people of Belarus. In this way, we need to focus on our next step actions to support a systematic collection of evidence, the cooperation with international law experts, including working with national experts in the context of universal jurisdiction, and cooperate with the future European Observatory to fight impunity”, said Andrius Kubilius (EPP, LT), Chair of Parliament’s delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly.