Fearing safety for human rights defenders and concerned about the deteriorated state of fundamental rights and freedoms in Belarus, Human Rights First joined 117 organizations from 28 countries to appeal to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to take urgent measures to address the crisis in Belarus.
The appeal calls on the Organization of 56 European and North American countries to take these principal steps:
- Immediately condemn the serious and widespread human rights violations and urgently undertake action in response to the human rights crisis in Belarus;
- Immediately begin the procedure to initiate the “Moscow Mechanism” in light of the particularly serious threat to the fulfillment of the provisions of the OSCE human dimension by the authorities of Belarus.
The Moscow Mechanism is a rarely-evoked instrument for protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms that was established in 1991. The Moscow Mechanism relies on independent experts to resolve human dimension crises in OSCE participating States. If the state in question agrees, the OSCE may carry out an official investigation of alleged violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. So far, the Moscow Mechanism has only been used five times. (Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992; Estonia in 1992; Moldova in 1993; Serbia in 1993; and Turkmenistan in 2002/3.)
The additional pressure from OSCE would be in line with other international actions, uni- and multilateral. On January 20, the European Parliament will likely adopt a joint resolution condemning the crackdown following Belarus’ presidential election last month. The draft also calls for targeted sanctions on Belarusian companies and a freeze of financial aid provided by the International Monetary Fund. The European Union is also working on a “black list” of officials banned from entry. Poland has already banned several individuals, starting with President Lukashenko. The United States has long ago declared the December elections in Belarus illegitimate and strongly condemned a crackdown on opposition demonstrators.
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