Civil society: the OSCE Moscow Mechanism - a way out of the "Belarusian deadlock"

Olga Zakharova, Eurasia Idea Network Correspondent

Civil Society representatives from 27 OSCE member countries sent an appeal for urgent action in response to the human rights crisis in Belarus to the embassies of OSCE member countries. The appeal includes a petition to initiate the Moscow Mechanism for independent monitoring. More than 100 organisations have already signed the petition.


 These organisations include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Federation of Human Rights and Freedom House

The petition states: "...

We urge members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to take action in response to the human rights crisis in Belarus and to adopt a firm and consistent position in relation to the Belarusian authorities." The petition also states the requirement to begin the process of initiating the Moscow Mechanism immediately in light of the serious threats posed by Belarusian authorities to OSCE human dimension commitments.

What to do about the situation in Belarus – a question which is currently posed at various levels of the political and civil society establishments. Weeks after the presidential elections of 19 December, new evidence arrives daily pertaining to searches and detentions. Still more than twenty people are held, facing dubious criminal charges for organising unrest. This number includes four presidential candidates from the opposition and several journalists. "In Belarus today transpires the destruction of the remnants of civil society and the physical destruction of its leaders," said an anonymous Belarusian civil society representative.

Belarusian civil society is in need of assistance and support. "We ask you for help ... This occasion is associated with a very strong crackdown on all of civil society, with violence and mass violation of the law, and not a few cases in Belarus after 19 December,” said another anonymous representative of Belarusian civil society.

Risking reprisals, over 10 civic organisations from Belarus also supported the petition to the OSCE for the institution of the Moscow Mechanism in response to the crisis of human rights and threats to fundamental freedoms in Belarus.

Today the countries of Europe are ready to re-impose sanctions against Belarusian authorities that had been imposed following the elections of 2006. However, there are doubts that sanctions alone will radically change the human rights situation inside the country. The last time sanctions contributed toward the release of political prisoners, but the Lukashenko regime itself survived.

The Moscow Mechanism of the OSCE, as opposed to sanctions, represents a potential for dialogue with the authorities in resolving the human rights situation. This Mechanism, unlike other procedures of the OSCE, does not require the consensus of all participating countries. 10 signatory countries are enough to establish an independent mission to study the facts of serious violations of OSCE commitments to human rights. An official OSCE report would serve as a basis for dialogue with the country and can be used by international organisations, including financial organisations, to build relations with the country.

Even if the Belarus authorities refuse to accept the mission, the decision to launch the Mechanism can proceed independently, and the report can be compiled from the available materials without a trip to the country. According to civil society activists, the OSCE Moscow Mechanism is an opportunity that may help solve the human rights dilemma in Belarus.