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Friday, October 30, 2020

Germany seeks more scrutiny of Belarus by top UN rights body

GENEVA (AP) – Germany has presented a resolution at the U.N.’s top human rights body that raises concerns about torture, “arbitrary deprivations of life,” and sexual and gender-based violence linked to Belarus’ disputed presidential election last month.

The resolution came as the Human Rights Council prepares for an urgent debate Friday on the situation in Belarus. It points to the alleged intimidation, harassment and detention of opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko’s government before and after the Aug. 9 election.

The autocratic Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet republic for 26 years, was declared the winner, but opposition activists have challenged the election as rigged.

The European Union and the U.S. government have called the vote neither free nor fair and urged the government to enter a dialogue with the opposition as post-election protests continue.

Lukashenko’s main challenger in the election, former English teacher and political novice Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, was to deliver a video message for Friday’s Human Rights Council debate. So was Anais Marin, the council’s special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus.

The German resolution, which could be amended and voted on later Friday, lists a litany of human rights concerns and calls on U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to look into recent violations and report back to the council by year-end.

That would entail a relatively fast-track response for the often deliberate and slow-moving council.

Germany’s move suggested speed was among its priorities. The resolution stops short of seeking more onerous, in-depth measures in the council’s arsenal, such as deploying a fact-finding mission or assembling a panel of experts to examine the situation.

The text cites allegations of “torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by law enforcement and prison officials.” It calls on Belarus authorities to “cease the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators” and stop arbitrary arrests on political grounds and release all political prisoners, journalists and others detained around the election cycle.

A resolution setting up the urgent debate was adopted Monday on a 25-2 vote with 20 abstentions. Many European nations voted in favor and many African nations abstained.

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.



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