UN Calls on Belarus to Release Peaceful Protesters Arbitrarily Detained
The U.N. Human Rights office is calling on Belarusian authorities to immediately release all people unlawfully arrested during anti-government protests, which broke out nearly two weeks ago in the wake of allegedly fraudulent presidential elections.
Most of the several thousand people detained reportedly have been released. However, U.N. human rights monitors report that more than 100 people remain in jail. They express particular concern about the cases of some 60 people accused of criminal acts, charges that could carry heavy prison sentences.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Liz Throssell, said her agency is particularly worried about the fate of at least eight people whose whereabouts are unknown. She said information has been hard to get because of the practice of mass detentions.
Nevertheless, she said Belarus has a duty to make sure comprehensive, accurate records are kept. She said family members and legal counsel must be informed about where all individuals are being held.
“Allegations continue to emerge of large-scale torture and ill-treatment of people including of journalists, and particularly alarming of children, during the arrests and in detention. We are, therefore, disturbed that reportedly no action has to date been taken to investigate these reports, with a view to bringing those responsible to justice,” Throssell said.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital Minsk Aug. 9, claiming the country’s long-serving president, Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed Europe’s last dictator, had stolen the election. Demonstrations calling for him to step down show no sign of abating despite the violent actions of riot police to suppress the protests.
Throssell said people have a right to freedom of expression and to freedom of peaceful assembly. She said the government should take steps to facilitate and not to repress these rights.