The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calls for the “immediate” release of detainees and an “inclusive” national dialogue
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has lamented that “there has been no improvement” in respect for rights and freedoms in Belarus in recent months and that, in fact, in recent weeks it has been detected a “continuous deterioration” of the situation, which is why he has urged the Government of Alexander Lukashenko to stop the repression and start a dialogue.
Bachelet’s office estimates that more than 27,000 people have been detained since the Aug. 9 elections, in which Lukashenko won a sixth consecutive term despite accusations of fraud from the opposition. Despite the time that has elapsed, the protests continue and so do the arrests, as evidenced by the fact that about a thousand people were arrested on November 8, about 700 on November 15, and almost a score last Monday.
In addition, the penalties imposed against these protesters are becoming “more serious”, since although initially only administrative charges were presented, in recent weeks the fines or arrest warrants have been increasing for 15 days.
Bachelet has warned that more and more protesters are accused of crimes that can carry “heavy prison sentences.” After the November 1 march, 231 people were charged with “organizing and actively participating in actions that seriously violate public order”, punishable by up to three years in prison.
The repression extends to opposition leaders, journalists –373 have been arrested since August -, human rights defenders or lawyers, among other sectors critical in the eyes of the regime. Bachelet has also warned of the disciplinary sanctions imposed against teachers and students for participating in the demonstrations.
ACTION BY THE POLICE
The High Commissioner, who has delivered a speech before the UN Human Rights Council, has also been “deeply concerned” about the possible excessive use of force by the Police, recalling that interventions must be “exceptional, proportionate and a measure of last resort “.
In this sense, it has regretted that despite the protests having been generally peaceful, they have faced “systematic” and sometimes “violent” repression by the security forces, who have resorted to “unnecessary” use. and excessive “force, according to the assessment of the former Chilean president.
At least four people have lost their lives since the start of the protests, while there have been cases of beatings or persecutions that call into question the actions of the authorities. Bachelet has pointed out that there are “credible” reports of beatings inflicted on detainees, which if confirmed would amount to ill-treatment and, “in some cases, could amount to torture.”
Bachelet, in fact, has been “alarmed” by the “numerous” complaints of torture and degrading treatment received by her office – some 2,000 only until the end of October – and has indicated that, despite the alleged extension of abuses, there is no record of the results of the investigations or of support for the victims, which means that many of them do not even report them “for fear of reprisals.”
The UN also links “masked men, without insignia or identification” and supposedly related to Lukashenko to the violence, while there have been cases of transfers in unidentified vehicles. “All this creates a climate of fear and an atmosphere of anarchy and impunity,” the High Commissioner criticized.
“IMMEDIATE” RELEASE OF DETAINEES
Bachelet has demanded steps from Lukashenko to solve the current situation, which involves the “immediate” release of all those people who have been detained “illegally or arbitrarily” simply for demonstrating, as well as to respect the basic right of assembly and avoid any “violent” action.
The UN aspires to carry out “rapid, complete, independent and impartial” investigations to clarify possible abuses, in such a way as to guarantee accountability and care for victims and their families. The High Commissioner has regretted that her team has so far been unable to enter Belarus to investigate.
Ultimately, Bachelet has urged the Belarusian government to initiate a “sincere, respectful and inclusive” national dialogue, something that Lukashenko has always refused to understand, understanding that those who protest against his government operate in the service of external agents.
© 2020 Europa Press.