U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet reported the human rights situation in Belarus continues to worsen, as President Alexander Lukashenko stiffens repressive measures to quell dissent.
The High Commissioner has submitted her latest update on Belarus to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
This latest report examines alleged human rights violations in Belarus since May 2020. Bachelet said the government has refused to cooperate or grant access to U.N. experts to undertake their probe, so all information has been gathered remotely.
She called the findings very disheartening.
“I am deeply concerned by increasingly severe restrictions on civic space and fundamental freedoms, including continuing patterns of police raids against civil society organizations and independent media, and the arrests and criminal prosecutions of human rights activists and journalists on what routinely appear to be politically motivated charges,” Bachelet said.
The report noted more than 650 people currently are imprisoned because of their opinions. Last year, it said, nearly 500 journalists and media professionals were detained, with at least 68 subjected to ill treatment. Journalist Raman Pratasevich is among 27 journalists who remain in detention. He was arrested in May after his flight from Greece to Lithuania was diverted by Belarus authorities to the capital Minsk.
Bachelet said she is alarmed by persistent allegations of widespread and systematic torture and ill-treatment of protesters who have been arbitrarily arrested. She said even children have been subjected to abuse while in detention and at least four protesters have died in police custody.
“Gender-based violence in detention also continues to be of serious concern,” Bachelet said. “The Office has received reports of sexual violence committed by law enforcement officials, primarily, but not exclusively, against women and girls. These include 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.
Belarus Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Yuri Ambrazevich, said the report is full of baseless statements and accusations. He said the experts have ignored his government’s position.
He questions the authority of the Council to act as a court and judge his country’s actions. He said the mandate issued to the experts to examine his country’s human rights situation has no legitimacy.