Allegations of torture against Belarusian security forces during a recent crackdown on protesters must be investigated, the UN rights commissioner said, putting pressure on strongman Alexander Lukashenko.
Michelle Bachelet said there were hundreds of allegations of torture or ill-treatment, including children, as a result of the response to protests over Mr Lukashenko’s disputed re-election as President of Belarus.
“Given their size and number, all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by the security forces must be documented and investigated in order to bring the perpetrators to justice,” she said at the opening of the UN Human Rights Council. , which has agreed to hold an emergency debate.
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Unprecedented demonstrations erupted in Belarus after Lukashenko claimed to have defeated opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya by 80 percent of the vote on Aug. 9.
Mr Lukashenko, who ruled the former Soviet state for 26 years, has refused to step down and turned to neighboring Russia for support to stay in power.
His security forces have detained thousands of protesters, many of whom have accused the police of ill-treatment and torture. Several people were killed in the crackdown.
Rare council debate
Ms Bachelet said there were reports of sexual assaults, kidnappings of people associated with the opposition and attacks on journalists.
“There is limited evidence of any steps by the authorities to address these reports,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“Restoring social peace in Belarus requires deep dialogue, reform and accountability for serious human rights violations.”
The council has agreed to a proposal from the European Union to hold a rare urgent debate on Friday about the deteriorating situation.
In making the request, German Ambassador Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg pointed to reports of “unprecedented attacks and torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of peaceful protesters, as well as harassment, intimidation and detention of opposition leaders”.
“The situation on the ground clearly warrants an urgent debate. The Human Rights Council should not remain silent on this issue,” he said.
Belarusian Ambassador Yury Ambrazevich, however, condemned the proposal as a “manipulation of the council” that “has nothing to do with human rights”, but merely aimed at putting political pressure on Belarus.
Friday’s debate will be only the sixth time in the council’s 14-year history that it has agreed to hold an urgent debate, a special debate agreed at a regular session of the council.
At its last session in June, the council held an urgent debate on racism and police brutality following unrest in the United States and abroad over the death of George Floyd.