The UN human rights chief on Friday called on Belarus to end its “systematic repression” of critics and immediately release those held on political grounds, saying some violations could amount to crimes against humanity.
Volker Turk’s comments came after his office released a new report documenting violations of international law such as extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual violence and deprivation of the right to freedom of expression and association. The report is based on interviews with more than 200 victims and witnesses and other sources.
“Our report paints an unacceptable picture of impunity and the almost total destruction of civil space and fundamental liberties in Belarus,” Turki said in a statement. Ensure accountability.
Critics say the crackdown continues, and rights advocates in Belarus warned on Tuesday of a new heavy-handed crackdown on dissent by the authoritarian government, detaining more than 100 people in a week.
According to Viasna, Belarus’ oldest and most prominent rights group, authorities targeted opposition activists, journalists, medical workers, members of shooting sports clubs and people working with drones.
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A UN report pointed to the thrashing of thousands of peaceful protesters in August 2020 – the largest ever in the country – after widely contested elections that gave authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko another term.
It lamented more than a dozen legislative amendments adopted in the past two years that target political activists and opponents, and said about 1,500 people are currently detained on “politically motivated charges”. The report said that as of last month, around 800 non-governmental groups had been shut down.
A court in Belarus on Friday sentenced the chief editor and chief director of the country’s leading independent news website Tut.By to 12 years in prison on charges of harming national security and inciting hatred. Another court sentenced two independent political analysts to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of similar charges.
Exiled opposition leader Svetlana Sikhanovskaya said the “punishment of two touts by journalists” is “the latest attempt by the regime to kill honest journalism in Belarus.”
Lukashenko, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who backed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has ruled the former Soviet country since 1994.
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