The UN Human Rights Committee expressed profound regret over the Republic of Belarus’ denunciation of the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, thirty years after its accession.
The Committee said Minsk’s recent decision to withdraw from the Optional Protocol will deprive victims of human rights violations in Belarus, who have been denied justice domestically, of bringing their complaints before the Committee.
“The possibility of submitting individual petitions to the Committee is undeniably an avenue that has been and remains to be resorted by many individuals seeking justice. Depriving victims of such an important opportunity is a serious and unfortunate setback for human rights protection under the Covenant,” said Committee Chairperson Photini Pazartzis.
Belarus ratified the Optional Protocol on 30 September 1992. In the last thirty years, the Committee has considered hundreds of complaints against the State party on issues ranging from freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly to fair trials in death penalty cases. The procedure has contributed to the development of jurisprudence on important issues for Belarus and other States parties.
The Committee noted that Belarus adopted its decision without providing a particular explanation and without holding any consultation with civil society and non-governmental entities at any stage of the national process of denunciation. With this regrettable step, the Republic of Belarus becomes the fourth and only country in the twenty-first century to withdraw from the Optional Protocol, which has been ratified by 117 countries.
The Committee noted that the denunciation will take effect on 8 February 2023, three months after the UN Secretary-General received the notification from the State party. The Committee will continue to accept, register and examine all complaints that it will receive before the effective date. All complaints currently being considered by the Committee will be processed, reviewed and adjudicated. Cases found to be in violation of rights will also continue to be followed up on in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Committee’s Rules of Procedure.
“The Committee remains hopeful that the Republic of Belarus will reconsider its decision and might re-accede to the Optional Protocol in the future, restoring the rights long held by its people,” Pazartzis added. “The Committee remains faithful and committed to the spirit of cooperation and engagement that has guided and continues to guide its work and dialogue with States parties.”