Update: On August 21, 2021, the document officially published on the web-site of Legislative Herald of Georgia. Date of issue: 01/08/2021.

On August 13, a cooperation agreement between the State Security Committee of Belarus and the State Security Service of Georgia was published on the official legislative website of Belarus[1]. The document was signed in 2016 and recently entered into force in Belarus. Under the agreement, the parties agree to exchange information on a regular basis for state security purposes. The document has not yet been published on the website of the Legislative Herald of Georgia, therefore, it is likely that it has not yet acquired legal force in Georgia. However, there is a decree of August 6, 2020[2], which approves the entry into force of the agreement and the completion of the internal procedures necessary for its entry into force.

According to the agreement, the parties agree to exchange information on a regular basis, to cooperate promptly in the fight against various crimes, including crimes against the sovereignty of the state, constitutional integrity, state security[3]. It is noteworthy, that the authoritarian regime of Belarus makes similar baseless accusations against human rights defenders and human rights organizations, thus suppressing critical opinion in Belarus, grossly violating human rights and banning the legitimate activities of human rights defenders in the country[4].

For more than a year[5], a wave of protests following the illegitimate presidential elections on August 9, 2020, has been followed by a large-scale coordinated and sustained attack by the Belarusian authorities against peaceful protesters, human rights defenders, journalists and activists. As of today, 631 people in Belarus are considered political prisoners[6].

After May 23, 2021, when the Belarusian authorities changed the route of a passenger plane to Minsk and arrested a journalist, due to the airspace sanctions imposed to Belarus by, Georgia remained among the few countries where Belarus citizens can travel and have a shelter.

Many countries around the world, including EU member states, have imposed economic sanctions or other restrictions on the Belarusian regime over its gross human rights abuses, have not recognized the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election, and cancelled the cooperation with the current regime.

It is important that the Georgian side should not allow the actual implementation of the agreement between the security services, as the use of this document will pose a threat to Belarusians sheltering Georgia, especially human rights defenders and activists. Moreover, the obligation to protect human rights defenders is, first of all, the responsibility of the state.[7] By bringing into force the agreement with the authoritarian regime of Belarus, Georgian side will grossly violate human rights, Georgian legislation and its obligations under international treaties.

The Human Rights House calls on the Belarusian human rights defenders residing in Georgia to contact them for legal assistance in order to ensure their safety & security in Georgia.

[1] The document was published on the website: www.pravo.ge

[2] https://matsne.gov.ge/ka/document/view/4958196?publication=0

[3] See Article 2 of the agreement: https://pravo.by/document/?guid=12551&p0=I01600093&p1=1&p5=0

[4] https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/03/18/joint-statement-belarus-end-reprisals-against-human-rights-defenders

[5] https://humanrightshouse.org/statements/we-stand-with-belarus-marking-the-9-august-2020-presidential-election/

[6] https://prisoners.spring96.org/en

[7] 2013, April Human Rights Council resolution (UN Doc: A/ HRC/RES/22/6); 2015 December, UN General Assembly resolution (UN Doc: A/ RES/70/161).