Human rights commissioner Nils Muižniek urged members of the organization to provide all possible support to Belarusian human rights defenders and activists.
Nils Muižniek states: “Another way in which the outside world can do harm to the cause of human rights is by speaking inconsistently or in many voices with the Belarusian regime. While some outside powers have called for sanctions, others continue to do a brisk business with Belarus.
“Clearly, mixed signals and veering from a values-based approach to one based on Realpolitik permits the authorities in Minsk much room for manoeuvre and allows them to play various actors against each other, thereby doing a disservice to human rights defenders in Belarus.”
Nils Muižniek is worried by the direct assistance member states offer to Belarus. He states: “The first principle to remember is “do no harm”. In other words, Council of Europe member states should not cooperate with the Belarusian authorities in any actions that may jeopardise the integrity and security of Belarusian human rights defenders.
“Unfortunately, various actors in Council of Europe member states have not always adhered to this principle. It should be recalled that the arrest, prosecution, conviction and detention of prominent defender Ales Bialiatski were possible thanks to information provided by Lithuania and Poland on bank accounts in Bialiatski’s name in these countries. It has also been reported that cooperation with Belarus through Interpol could imply risks to civil society actors.”
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights is adamant that Belarus should not be allowed to join Europe’s oldest and largest assembly of nations until it abolishes the death penalty and releases human rights defenders.
He writes: “Belarus is not a member state of the Council of Europe and should not even be considered a candidate until it releases all human rights defenders and opposition activists imprisoned for political motives, abolishes the death penalty and carries out far-reaching democratic reforms.”