For Immediate Release
Physicians for Human Rights and more than 45 NGOs have sent a letter to members of the UN General Assembly (GA) calling on them to vote against admitting Belarus as a new member of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The HRC is responsible for ensuring that UN member states comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law. The vote on council membership is slated for May 17.
Each region of the GA's membership has a set number of seats on the Council. With two seats in the East European region now vacant, and with only Belarus and Slovenia running, Belarus may gather the necessary 96 votes from GA members to gain a seat.
Belarus has systematically and seriously violated human rights. The current government, notorious for being the last dictatorship in Europe, has repeatedly quashed free elections and criticism of the regime. Members of political opposition groups have disappeared or been jailed. Independent media and civil society groups have been shut down, and torture is reportedly practiced at detention facilities.
In the past, the previous Commission on Human Rights voted to have a Special Rapporteur on Belarus to create dialogue with the government in order to resolve these urgent human rights issues. If Belarus becomes a member of the HRC, it will certainly block such measures of scrutiny of itself and its allies.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.