The Committee, as a mechanism that monitors the state's fulfillment of its obligations in specific cases, does not directly look for individuals "guilty" of what happened, but rather establishes dysfunction in state processes and institutions - in legislation, law enforcement practice - since the very obligation to respect, protect and realize rights human responsibility lies with the state, a violation can only be established in relation to the state itself, which has not ensured the fulfillment of its obligation - be it through the introduction of discriminatory legislation or the failure to investigate a murder.
For victims of violations and the community, the Committee, in addition to a means of restoring justice and the opportunity to be heard, provides a platform for formal recording of practices taking place in a given state through the prism of the stories of individuals - a kind of storytelling - which, at the same time, is given an expert legal assessment. This is an important evidence of the present time, allowing "not to turn tragedies into statistics", preventing individual voices of victims from getting lost in the general, difficult-to-perceive mass flow of violations.
Does Belarus' denunciation of the Optional Protocol mean a complete cessation of interaction with the Committee?
Firstly, for a long time the Committee will consider complaints filed by Belarusians before February 8. There are many of them, but registration can take months, and their consideration can take years, and one needs to be prepared for this. All this time, the Committee's interaction with the state and with the alleged victims of violations will continue.
Secondly, there remains the possibility of interaction with the Committee as a treaty body, for which the Convenant (to which Belarus, let us remind you, is still a party) also provides for other powers. In particular, States are required to regularly interact with the Committee by submitting reports on their implementation of their obligations under the Covenant. Non-state actors can provide alternative reports with their own view of the situation.
Other treaty bodies are also available for interaction, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which extends the competence to consider individual complaints to Belarus. There are also forums in the UN system that are not related to the performance of quasi-judicial functions: thematic mandates (Working Group on Arbitrary Detention), Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Special Rapporteur on the question of independence judges and lawyers), country mandates (OHCHR Mandate to review the human rights situation in Belarus). Such bodies and mandates do not have the power to make decisions that bind the state, but they can make recommendations, raise awareness of the situation through public statements, and interact with the state publicly and non-publicly. The format of the activities of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, for example, also makes it possible to convey information about individual victims of violations and the specific circumstances of their detention. The importance of OHCHR's activities can be illustrated by the report
on the situation in Belarus published in March 2023, which officially notes that individual violations of the state may amount to crimes against humanity. The UN Human Rights Council conducts a Universal Periodic Review, which regularly assesses the state's compliance with human rights obligations and makes recommendations for improving the situation (a report on the situation in Belarus
was reviewed in 2020).
The Moscow Mechanism operates within the OSCE, including in relation to Belarus; in 2020, a report
was prepared on the human rights situation in the country after the presidential elections.
You can interact with all these mechanisms by responding to requests for thematic information (here
you can track the deadlines for requests from various mechanisms in the field of human rights protection), participating in the formation of alternative government reports on the state of affairs.
In addition, there remains the possibility of public expression and interaction with other actors - for example, in the technological sphere, business and human rights: advocacy is possible in connection with the dissemination on platforms such as YouTube and Telegram, " repentance videos" that violate the rights of detained persons, informing businesses about the tools of digital authoritarianism
used by the Belarusian authorities.