Europe

Belarus has launched 'full-scale assault' on its people, says UN expert

Forced landing of civilian plane in Minsk on May 23 means no opponent of Belarus government safe anywhere: UN rapporteur

Peter Kenny   | 05.07.2021
Belarus has launched 'full-scale assault' on its people, says UN expert

GENEVA

Belarusian authorities have launched a full-scale assault against their people, curtailing their rights, "persecuting human rights defenders, journalists, media workers and lawyers in particular," the UN special rapporteur on Belarus said Monday.

"The crackdown is such that thousands of Belarusians have been forced or otherwise compelled to leave their homeland and seek safety abroad," said Anais Marin, delivering a report on Belarus to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

No countries spoke for Belarus during the delivery of the report or comments.

Marin said the forced landing of a civilian plane in Minsk on May 23, "for the apparent sole purpose of arresting a dissident who was on board (Roman Protasevich), signaled that no opponent of the current government is safe anywhere."

She said her report covers from April 1, 2020 to this March 31, a period marked by a deep political crisis, "following suspicions of embezzlement and fraud that marred the presidential elections of Aug. 9."

Most opposition candidates were ousted from the process, she said.


‘Still behind bars’

"Three are still behind bars; they are among some 530 people Belarusian human rights defenders consider prisoners because of their political opinions or activities. This is 10 times more than during the last post-election crisis in 2011," said Marin.

She said Belarus had launched a full-scale assault against civil society, curtailing a broad spectrum of rights and freedoms, targeting people from all walks of life.

"As the legal and judicial systems in Belarus protect the perpetrators of grave human rights violations, continuing impunity means that there is no guarantee of non-reoccurrence," Marin said.

"Hence the international community should keep on demanding the release and rehabilitation of all those still detained on political grounds, and support initiatives aiming at bringing perpetrators of the most serious crimes to account."

Lotte Knudsen, the EU ambassador to UN in Geneva, said the European Union is gravely concerned about reported numerous cases of torture and other ill-treatment of persons detained or arrested.

She said the actions include "acts of sexual or gender-based violence and about the death of political prisoner Vitold Ashurak in custody.”

"The EU is outraged by violations of children's rights, including torture and other ill-treatment, politically motivated criminal prosecution of children, and violations of their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and to education," said Knudsen.

The EU notably decried how the Education Open Doors project, destined for children in pretrial or correctional detention facilities, was abruptly terminated last November.

Simon Manley, the UK ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said the rapporteur's report's concerns had been "brought into sharp relief by the Belarusian authorities' actions.”

He cited the "outrageous forced landing of a civilian airliner and arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich, who has since been forced to appear twice in staged public events.

"These actions directly violate human rights. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Protasevich and all those others held on political grounds."

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