Systemic Denial of Access to Domestic Remedies: A Statement of a Coalition of Belarusian and International NGOs

The Right to Defense project actively participated in the creation of a briefing paper on the issue of access to domestic remedies in Belarus. A coalition of Belarusian and international NGOs has worked on the paper, including REDRESS, Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, the Belarusian Association of Human Rights Lawyers, Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Danish Institute Against Torture, Human Constanta, International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus, International Federation for Human Rights), Legal Initiative, Respect – Protect – Fulfil, Viasna Human Rights Centre, and the World Organisation against Torture.

The rapid denunciation by the authorities of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, effectively eliminating the opportunity for Belarusians to appeal to the Human Rights Committee after February 8, 2023, triggered an influx of complaints lodged against the actions of the state. The experts who contributed to the preparation of the briefing highlight: given the Belarusan legal default, it is important that these complaints are considered on the merits, primarily for the purpose of documenting ongoing repressive actions and condemning human rights violations which do reach the threshold where they can be qualified as crimes against humanity.

At the same time, it is known that Belarusan complainants face obstacles during the registration and admissibility assessment of their complaints, the reason being the difficulty of fulfilling the requirement to exhaust domestic remedies within the national legal default before seeking recourse through an international human rights mechanism.

In our more comprehensive exploration of the Committee's requirement, we address its intent, as well as the challenges faced by complainants.

The paper highlights the key challenges faced by victims of violations and their defenders in seeking justice within domestic jurisdictions. These challenges encompass the arbitrary use of non-disclosure agreements and closed trials, the lack of access to remedies for pre-trial detainees, the harassment faced by lawyers addressing international human rights bodies and their clients, as well as the general systemic impunity that undermines the potential effectiveness of any remedy.
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