February 8 Marks the Anniversary of Belarus’s Denunciation of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

On November 8, 2022, the UN Secretary-General registered Belarus's notice of withdrawal from the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, making February 8, 2023, the final day Belarusians could submit complaints to the Human Rights Committee. A year has since elapsed.

Despite Belarus's rapid withdrawal, the Committee continues to deliver its Views and mandates the state to fulfill its obligations under the Covenant concerning previously lodged complaints. This includes rights recognized by the Covenant and the duty of State parties to uphold those rights. Recent actions include interim measures on N. Loika's complaint, Views issued on the complaint of V. Babaryka, filed back in 2020, and L. Sudalenko, as well as the registration of Maxim Znak's complaint on February 4, 2023. It is likely that more updates will follow, and Belarus will continue to appear in the considerations of the HRC.

However, for Belarusian citizens, appealing to this international body has been a crucial way to protect the rights such as freedom of assembly, association, and protection against arbitrary detention, etc. The state's denunciation was clearly aimed at curtailing Belarusians' access to international human rights mechanisms.

Over the past year, even despite the denunciation, Belarusians have adapted by shifting their focus to other UN mechanisms for defending their rights. The UN Human Rights Committee's role extends beyond individual complaints to include overseeing the Covenant's implementation. It reviews periodic reports from State parties and issues recommendations on compliance with its obligations. Submitting these reports is a requirement of the Covenant, which Belarus remains a party to.

Furthermore, Special Rapporteurs (including the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Belarus), the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women are still available for individual complaints. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also periodically reports on Belarus's human rights situation, with each mechanism focusing on specific issues per their mandates.
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