UN experts on human rights have called on Belarus to put an end to the practice of excessive use of force, arrests, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of protesters and journalists, the press release of the UN office states.
The statement notes that during the peaceful protests on Freedom Day on March 25, 2021, 176 people were detained, and two days later – 247 people, including seven journalists. On the eve of the rally, the Investigative Committee threatened protesters with criminal liability.
“We are alarmed at the high numbers of alleged arbitrary arrest and detention that took place last week which demonstrate a continued pattern of police brutality against demonstrators. We are concerned that, so far, security forces have not been held accountable for excessive use of force both in the pre-electoral period and after the presidential elections on 9 August 2020,” the experts said.
“We are deeply concerned that, instead of bringing perpetrators to justice, the authorities are arbitrarily seeking to silence all forms of dissent, through unjustified violence, intimidation and growingly by bringing criminal charges against those who exercise their fundamental rights, or defend victims of human rights violations.”
“Ensuring institutional and personal accountability for human rights violations is an obligation for states under international law. Failure to do so not only perpetuates the prevailing culture of impunity but may even amount to criminal complicity in serious crimes,” the experts said.
“We have raised our concerns directly with the Government and stressed the need for prompt, effective, thorough and impartial investigations with a view to ensuring accountability in cases of arbitrary detention and torture and ill-treatment.”
The statement was signed by the experts: Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Miriam Estrada-Castillo, Mumba Malila, Seong-Phil Hong; Ms. Anaïs Marin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus; Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The experts will continue to engage with the authorities of Belarus and closely monitor the situation.