Political rights

The climate of repression in Belarus is stifling civil and political rights

The United Nations reports that the human rights situation in Belarus has seriously deteriorated as the government seeks to maintain control over its people, depriving them of their civil and political rights.

The report, submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, finds that the climate of repression continues across Belarus two years after Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected for a sixth term as president in a vote seen as rigged by the country’s opposition. The anger over the election result that sparked large-scale protests at the time has not subsided.

Since her office’s last update in March, Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif said there had been a massive crackdown on civil society in Belarus. She said the media, political opponents, trade unions and other suspected dissidents have been prevented from exercising their democratic and human rights.

She said more than 1,300 political prisoners are currently behind bars. She noted that the authorities continue to imprison and torture people for exercising their fundamental rights, including their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“There is no genuine and impartial investigation into the torture allegations and death cases,” Al-Nashif said. “On the contrary, we continue to receive credible reports that authorities are harassing and intimidating those seeking justice in connection with such allegations, including relatives of victims, further undermining the rule of law and the judicial system.

Al-Nashif said he was particularly concerned about the amendments to the Criminal Code of Belarus. She said they extend the death penalty to people who attempt to commit so-called acts of terrorism and murders of government officials or public figures. She noted that dozens of political activists have already been charged with such crimes.

“Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee to neighboring countries,” she said. “The human rights impacts of repression, particularly on women, children and people with disabilities, are of particular concern. There are also reports of asset seizures and illegal deportations of relatives of those who have left the country.

In response, Belarusian Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Larysa Belskaya, said the report was far removed from reality and deliberately distorted the situation in her country.

She accused the paper’s authors of applying double standards. Instead of defaming the elections in her country, she said that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should investigate the presidential elections that took place in the United States and publish similar reports.