The United Nations reports the human rights situation in Belarus has seriously deteriorated as the government seeks to maintain control over its people, stripping them of their civil and political rights.
The report, submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council, finds the climate of repression continues throughout Belarus two years after Alexander Lukashenko was reelected for a sixth term as president in a vote considered rigged by the country’s opposition. The anger over the election’s outcome that sparked large-scale protests at that time has not subsided.
Since her office’s last update in March, Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif said there has been a massive crackdown on civil society in Belarus. She said the media, political opponents, trade unions and other perceived dissidents have been prevented from exercising their democratic and human rights.
She said more than 1,300 political prisoners currently are behind bars. She noted that authorities continue imprisoning and torturing people for exercising their human rights, including their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“No genuine and impartial investigations into allegations of torture and cases of deaths are being conducted,” Al-Nashif said. “On the contrary, we continue to receive credible reports of authorities harassing and intimidating those seeking justice in relation to such allegations, including relatives of victims, further undermining the rule of law and the judicial system.”
Al-Nashif expressed particular concern about amendments to Belarus’ Criminal Code. She said they extend the death penalty to people attempting to carry out so-called acts of terrorism and murders of government officials or public figures. She noted that dozens of political activists already have been charged with such crimes.
“Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee to neighboring countries,” she said. “The crackdown’s human rights impacts, particularly on women, children, and persons with disabilities, are of specific concern. There are also reports of seizures of assets, and unlawful evictions of relatives of those who left the country.”
In response, Belarus Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Larysa Belskaya, said the report was far removed from reality, and deliberately distorts the situation in her country.
She accused the document’s authors of applying double standards. Instead of vilifying the elections in her country, she said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should investigate the presidential elections that took place in the United States and issue similar reports.