Conflicts & War

UN ‘fears’ for safety of detained Belarusian blogger

Geneva, May 25 (EFE).- The United Nations on Tuesday said it feared for the safety of opposition blogger Roman Protasevich after he was “abducted” from a commercial plane ordered to make an emergency landing in Minsk and later made to confess to his crimes in footage broadcast on state TV.

In a statement, the spokesman for the UN’s human rights commissioner (OHCHR) Rupert Colville said Protasevich appeared to have bruising on his face and that his televised confession was likely forced.

“We fear for Roman Protasevich’s safety and wish to seek assurances that he is treated humanely and is not subjected to ill treatment or torture. His appearance on state TV last night was not reassuring,” he said.

“The manner, through threat of military force, in which Protasevich was abducted from the jurisdiction of another State and brought within that of Belarus was tantamount to an extraordinary rendition.

“Such abuse of State power against a journalist for exercising functions that are protected under international law is receiving, and deserves, the strongest condemnation,” he said.

Protasevich was taken into custody on Sunday after Belarusian authorities forced a Ryanair jet en route from Athens to Lithuania, with him on board, to land in Minsk.

Police also arrested Protasevich’s girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, a Russian student at the European Humanitarian University in Vilnius, who was traveling with the reporter to Vilnius.

“In addition to the issues relating to Mr Protasevich, the forced landing of the passenger plane terrorized passengers on board and exposed them to unnecessary danger, in violation of their human rights,” the statement added.

“This arbitrary arrest is a sign of an extremely worrying escalation in the crackdown of dissenting voices, not just of journalists but also of Belarusian human rights defenders and other civil society actors, including those living abroad,” Colville said.

In a video broadcast on Belarusian state TV late Monday, Protasevich said he was “cooperating with the investigation” and admitted his “culpability” for having organized massive protests in Minsk – the largest in the country’s history – after the August 2020 presidential election, which Belarusian opposition says were fraudulent.

Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus since 1994, claimed victory in the election and the state swiftly clamped down on the mass demonstrations, forcing many critics, including Protasevich, to go into exile.

The European Union and the United States have demanded his immediate release, just as the Belarusian opposition in exile has done, accusing the KGB of having arrested him in a special capture operation.

The EU on Tuesday announced sanctions against those they believed to be involved in the plane diversion, which it branded an “international scandal.”EFE


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