UN Secretary General calls on Belarus to release detained journalists and opposition leaders

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on January 10 2011 for the release of journalists, opposition candidates and their supporters who continue to be detained in Belarus following the December 19 2010 presidential elections, the UN News Service said.

Ban noted the serious concerns voiced by observer groups regarding the electoral process and post-electoral developments and called on the government to observe fully human rights and due process, spokesperson Martin Nesirky told a news conference in New York.

"The Secretary-General recognises the important work of the office for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Belarus and regrets the decision of the government of Belarus to close the OSCE office in Minsk," Nesirky said, referring to the Belarus capital.

In December, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay voiced deep concern at the violence that erupted after the election, including the abduction of opposition candidates, and called for the immediate release of those detained.

A leading opposition candidate was attacked on his way to a mass rally in Minsk, hospitalised and later abducted by unidentified people amid the violence that erupted following the polls.

In addition, attempts by radical supporters of opposition candidates to break into a government building were followed by mass detentions of opposition candidates and their supporters, human rights activists, journalists and harassment of civil society.

Pillay also called on the government of Belarus to ensure that human rights defenders, journalists and civil society organisations are free from any harassment. "I urge all parties to refrain from violence and demonstrate full respect for human rights," she said.


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