Human Rights Watch calls on UN to condemn repression in Belarus

The New York based non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch called on Monday for the United Nations Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution condemning recent human rights abuses in Belarus.

The organization released a 31-page report on Monday documenting the human rights abuses that have occurred in the former Soviet state since an opposition protest was violently suppressed following presidential elections in December.

"The government has created a serious human rights crisis in Belarus, and the UN Human Rights Council should not remain silent about it," Russian Director of Human Rights Watch Anna Sevortian said. "A council resolution would send a strong message to the Belarus authorities that the ongoing crackdown must end."

Up to 30,000 people gathered in downtown Minsk on December 19 to protest the landslide victory of President Viktor Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994. Hundreds of mostly peaceful protesters were beaten and arrested by police.

At least 725 people were sentenced to between 10 and 15 days in prison following the crackdown, according to the report based on interviews carried out in Minsk in February.

"Detainees served their sentences in overcrowded cells, where they were forced to sleep on the floor, share beds, or take turns sleeping," Human Rights Watch said in a news release. "Many say their cells were freezing and lacked toilets."

The report also details raids on human rights organizations, denial of access to defense council and government pressure on lawyers representing those detained.

The Belarusian authorities are still investigating more than 46 individuals on riot charges

related to the December protest, including seven former presidential candidates. Four have already been convicted and sentenced to up to four years imprisonment. Two Russians have been released but requested to pay hefty fines.

MOSCOW, March 14 (RIA Novosti, Natasha Doff)


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