Remarks at a UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on the Human Rights Situation in Belarus (via VTC)

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 4, 2020


Thank you very much, Mr. President. We are delighted to co-host today’s event with Estonia and the United Kingdom. I’d also like to thank Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine for co-sponsoring, as well as all of the speakers and participants today who have taken the time to discuss this matter.

I also want to thank Special Rapporteur Anaïs Marin for her presence and presentation this morning. The United States commends your dedication to human rights issues in Belarus and your determination to implement your mandate, despite facing restrictive obstacles. We encourage the Government of Belarus to afford the Special Rapporteur access to the country, in accordance with her mandate.

I would also like to especially thank Ms. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya for being with us today. And I’m sorry for not being able to say your name very well. As Deputy Secretary of State Biegun noted in his remarks at the OSCE in Vienna on August 28, we remain inspired by your courage and resolve to advocate for the Belarusian people in their peaceful demands to choose their own government and their own future.

The Belarusian government must promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people. Instead, we see consistent abuses of the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association and expression – and these abuses must be addressed immediately.

The United States vows to support Belarusian sovereignty and independence, and we call on all governments to do the same. However, it is clear to the world and the people of Belarus that the August 9 election was fraudulent.

Due to the scale of this fraud, the Belarusian people will never know the real outcome of their election. The United States strongly condemns the post-election brutality carried out by Belarusian authorities against peaceful protesters, including mass detentions and intimidation. We heard this directly from one of the presenters this morning. There must be an immediate end to all violence against the Belarusian people.

We are deeply concerned about the reports of continued detention of members of the opposition, the apparent targeting of journalists for violence and detention, the dozens of people reported missing, and the use of internet shutdowns to hinder the ability of the Belarusian people to share and access information about the election and demonstrations. Continued arrests and detentions, including of labor leaders and journalists, must end.

The United States does not seek to control or decide the destiny of the Belarusian people. This is also not a contest between East and West; this is a struggle between a ruler and the people he claims to represent. Time is of the essence, as we need to move expeditiously to avoid violence, intimidation, and harm to the people of Belarus. The OSCE is ready to engage now, and the United States supports the Chairperson-in-Office and the Troika as a means to facilitate dialogue within Belarus.

I also want to reaffirm the call – once again – for the release of all of those unjustly detained. This includes an American citizen, Vitali Shkliarov.

Let me be clear: The President of the United States and the Secretary of State have no higher priority than the protection of American citizens falsely accused and held prisoner for crimes they did not commit. We call upon Belarusian authorities to promptly release Vitali and all those who are unjustly detained.

The people of Belarus have a right to self-determination, and are entitled to choose their own leaders through a truly free and fair election, one that is open to independent observation. Disparate elements of Belarusian society have come together to demand that their voices be heard for the future of their country. In this important moment, we reiterate that human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and the right of peaceful assembly, must be respected. This will provide the foundation for those reforms necessary to bring about a democratic and prosperous future for the people of Belarus.

Thank you very much.