UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet reported that the human rights situation in Belarus continues to deteriorate as President Alexander Lukashenko tightened repressive measures to suppress dissent.
The High Commissioner presented her latest update on Belarus to the UN Human Rights Council.
This latest report has been investigating alleged human rights abuses in Belarus since May 2020. Bachelet said the government refused to cooperate or allow UN experts access to conduct its investigation, so all information was gathered remotely.
She said the results were very disheartening.
“I am deeply concerned about the tightening restrictions on civil space and freedoms, including the ongoing patterns of police raids against civil society organizations and independent media, and the arrests and prosecutions of human rights defenders and journalists who appear routinely politically motivated.” “Said Bachelet.
The report found that more than 650 people are currently detained for their opinions. Last year almost 500 journalists and media workers were arrested and at least 68 were ill-treated. The journalist Raman Pratasevich is one of the 27 journalists who are still in custody. He was arrested in May after his flight from Greece to Lithuania was diverted to the capital Minsk by the Belarusian authorities.
Bachelet said she was alarmed by ongoing allegations of widespread and systematic torture and ill-treatment of protesters who were arbitrarily arrested. She said even children were ill-treated while in detention and at least four protesters died in police custody.
“Gender-based violence in detention remains a matter of serious concern,” said Bachelet. “The Office has received reports of sexual violence perpetrated by law enforcement officers primarily, but not exclusively, against women and girls. This includes reports of sexual assault, threats of sexual assault, psychological violence and sexual harassment against both women and men. ”
Bachelet said thousands of people have fled to neighboring countries in search of asylum since the 2020 presidential election.
Belarusian ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yuri Ambrazevich, said the report was full of unsubstantiated statements and accusations. He said the experts ignored his administration’s position.
He questions the council’s power to act as a court and judge the actions of his country. He said the mandate given to the experts to investigate his country’s human rights situation was illegitimate.