Conflicts & War

UN and EU nations increase pressure on Belarus at Human Rights Council

Geneva, Dec 4 (efe-epa) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, on Friday said fundamental freedoms in Belarus had become even more limited in recent weeks, and both she and several European ministers called for the release of demonstrators from custody.

“It is urgent that the Government of Belarus puts an end to ongoing human rights violations,” Bachelet said at the meeting.

The former Chilean president added: “Recent weeks have seen continued deterioration, particularly with respect to the right of peaceful assembly.”

She called on Alexander Lukashenko’s regime to “immediately release all those unlawfully or arbitrarily detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression” and to respect the right to peaceful assembly.

Bachelet said that since the start of the protests in August, more than 27,000 people have been arrested, and last month alone there were more than 1,700 arrests following the three protests held in November.

She stressed that authorities were increasing punishments for protesters, who in the first few months of unrest were serving a maximum of 15 days of administrative detention. In recent weeks longer prison sentences are starting to be handed down, she added.

The High Commissioner also expressed concern about the continued persecution of opposition politicians, journalists, bloggers, lawyers and human rights defenders, and police violence to disperse protests with the use of tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and other excessive measures.

This repression has resulted in the deaths of at least four demonstrators, Bachelet said, going on to mention allegations of beatings of protestors in police stations and detention centres.

She also regretted that the Belarusian government has not allowed observers from the High Commissioner’s office access to the country.

Friday’s debate was attended by the foreign ministers from Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Romania, and Denmark (representing the Nordic countries), who supported Bachelet’s allegations and in some cases called for the release of political prisoners and a repeat of the August elections.

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