Belarus: NGOs call on UN Human Rights Council to convene extraordinary session

27 August 2020, 10:37 UTC |

The UN Human Rights Council must urgently convene a special session to address the human rights crisis in Belarus, where authorities have launched a full-scale crackdown following disputed presidential elections, Amnesty International and 16 other international and Belarusian NGOs said today in an open letter.

The letter also calls for the Council to establish an independent investigation into ongoing human rights violations.

 “The 2020 electoral campaign has been marked by an unprecedented level of protest activity, and an equally unprecedented crackdown on human rights by the authorities. Police have used excessive force including stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannons against peaceful demonstrators, subjected them to beatings and torture in incommunicado detention. Likewise, several protesters have been killed. The authorities have shown they won’t hesitate to use violence against their own citizens, and that they intend to obstruct a local investigation into these law enforcement abuses,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The authorities have shown they won’t hesitate to use violence against their own citizens, and that they intend to obstruct a local investigation into these law enforcement abuses 

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

“We are concerned that if the authorities’ actions go unchallenged, more blood will be spilled on the streets of Belarus. The UN Human Rights Council should mandate an international investigation into human rights violations and crimes under international law committed in the lead-up to, during and after the presidential election, with a view to swiftly deterring further serious violations.”

The open letter has been co-signed by 16 organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

Background

In the three days after the 9 August presidential election the authorities confirmed the arrest of at least 6,700 protesters. According to Viasna Human Rights Center, at least 450 of the detainees reported being tortured, including through severe beatings, or otherwise ill-treated, forced to perform humiliating acts and threatened with rape and other forms of violence, while held in incommunicado detention for up to 10 days.

Since 12 August, the authorities have taken steps to de-escalate the situation, refraining from mass arrests and releasing all those detained. However, the threats against peaceful protesters recently made by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his subordinates together with the recent deployment of the armed forces in the country’s capital Minsk and elsewhere, signal a possible new spiral of violence and accompanying human rights violations.