James M Yoch Jr
[JURIST] Adrian Severin, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus [official website], censured the Belarusian government headed by President Alexander Lukashenko [BBC profile] on Thursday for a series of allegedly abusive tactics ahead of Sunday's presidential elections. Severin appealed for the release [statement] of Lukashenko's political opponents and activists, including candidate aides, opposition supporters, and members of the media, who have been detained and even beaten. The UN accused Lukashenko's government of a campaign of intimidation and also reiterated a call for the end of attacks [JURIST report] on the Belarusian Helsinki Committee [official website], a leading human rights group whose members have been sentenced for tax evasion.
Meanwhile, the KGB, Belarus' state security service, cautioned protesters against Lukashenko that they face harsh penalties for participating in election demonstrations, including the death penalty [AFP report]. KGB head Stepan Sukhorenko characterized the protests as a "violent coup" attempt and alleged the involvement of a member of Georgia's parliament in destabilizing the election. Presidential candidate Alexander Milinkevich [campaign website], several of whose campaign aides have been arrested in recent days, urged the KGB to cease intimidating peaceful political activists and published a list of his aides arrested [list] on his website Thursday. The US, which, along with the European Union [official website], openly supports Lukashenko's opponents, also condemned the tactics of Lukashenko's government, but has not threatened new sanctions. The UN News Centre has more.