Belarus: UN experts urge investigation of deteriorating human rights

29 March 2006 - With reports that recent demonstrations in Belarus have been violently dispersed and over 1,000 protesters and journalists detained, a group of seven United Nations experts today called for investigations into what they termed the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

"We call on the Government of Belarus to immediately provide us with the names of the persons detained in connection with the above events, their location, as well as the charges they face," said the Special Rapporteurs, who are independent, unpaid experts with mandates from the UN Human Rights Commission, in a joint statement referring to peaceful demonstrations held on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 March against an election which monitors decried as being neither free nor fair.

The Rapporteurs said that on Saturday, the police used teargas and mock grenades to disperse the crowd, and violently clubbed and arrested numerous demonstrators.

"In most cases, family members are unaware of their whereabouts," the Rapporteurs said about those detained. "Over 150 people were reportedly already summarily tried without access to a defence lawyer and more people are expected to have similar trials in the coming days. Concerns are expressed regarding respect for their right to a fair trial."

The Special Rapporteurs who released the statement include Adrian Severin, who focuses on the situation of human rights in Belarus; Ambeyi Ligabo, whose area is the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Manfred Nowak, who deals with torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary General on human rights defenders; Leila Zerrougui, Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Stephen J. Toope, Chairperson of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; and Leandro Despouy, whose area is the independence of judges and lawyers.

Mr. Severin had already issued several condemnations of police actions and calls for the end of human rights abuses in Belarus in the lead-up to and aftermath of the elections.