Comment by the Permanent Mission of Belarus on the OHCHR Spokesperson’s press briefing notes on Belarus from 25 May 2021


With regard to the position in relation to Belarus expressed by Mr. Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on 25 May 2021, the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Belarus to the UN Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva would like to state the following.

Neither the United Nations in general, nor the High Commissioner, nor the OHCHR and, nor any mid-level employee of the UN secretariat such as Mr. Colville, has been authorized to give public assessments of any actions undertaken by authorities of a sovereign state.

The competent state agencies of the Republic of Belarus, in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Belarus, consider Mr. Roman Protasevich as a suspect in several criminal cases in connection with which an international search warrant was issued for him. Thus, he was detained by law enforcement agencies at an international airport of the Republic of Belarus on fully legitimate grounds.

Mr. Colville’s qualifications of Belarus’ actions in relation to the detention of Mr. Protasevich, a citizen of Belarus, as “unlawful”, “arbitrary” and “abuse” clearly show that the above official went beyond both his powers and the Office’s mandate. In so doing he disregarded both the principle of impartiality that all UN international officials must consistently uphold and the doctrine of the presumption of innocence.

Moreover, the OHCHR official did not ground his press briefing notes on legal documents that would be acceptable to the entire international community. Instead, he proceeded solely on the basis on political views expressed by politicians and officials representing a small group of Western countries among 193 UN Member States.

Likewise, the speculations and assumptions used by politicians and officials from the same Western countries on the incident with the Raynair aircraft in Belarus’ airspace patently stand behind Mr. Colville’s resort, surely on behalf of UN Under-Secretary General, to such strong word combinations as “threat of military force”, “forced landing” and “forcibly diverted”.

Let us bear in mind that those who made these speculations and assumptions did so even before ICAO, IATA and EASA launched their formal procedures for international inspections. The Belarusian authorities, in accordance with their international obligations, invited these and other organizations, as well as the relevant competent authorities of the United States and the European Union to take part in the investigation.

Mr. Colville’s statement from 25 May 2021 on Belarus demonstrates his personal ignorance and prejudice, which is unacceptable for an international official, and which we view as no less than an attempt to prop up the views presented so far by a small group of Western countries. We hold Mr. Colville’s personal convictions, and those of the High Commissioner, whom he represents, in high respect, including their concern for Mr. Protasevich’s health condition, who, by the way, even in detention continues to enjoy all the rights and to bear all the responsibilities of a Belarusian citizen. Yet, we consider it totally inappropriate to express such convictions in an official public document on behalf of the United Nations.

The Permanent Mission requests the OHCHR to provide to us credible evidence rather than a demonstration of a “test tube with tooth powder”, which would testify to the validity of inadmissible qualifications of Belarus’ actions used in the press briefing notes on Belarus.

In the absence of such evidence, we demand a disavowal and apology from the OHCHR.

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