Belarus spurns OSCE human rights mission request

MINSK, April 7 (Reuters) - Belarus said on Thursday a proposed international mission to investigate human rights in the country had "no foundation", accusing Western countries and Europe's main security and rights watchdog of double standards.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has voiced deep concern about Minsk's crackdown on opposition protestors and independent journalists since the disputed presidential election in December.

It had said on Tuesday Belarus was in "flagrant violation" of its OSCE commitments.

A group of 14 Western countries is seeking to use the 56-nation Vienna body to raise pressure on Minsk and has requested to send a special mission to Belarus to address concerns about the handling of the protests.

"A group of states, manipulating procedural blind spots in OSCE documents, has come up with an initiative to send to our country a 'rapporteur mission', without any foundation whatsoever," the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said.

The move was discriminatory and demonstrated double standards, it said in a statement.

"Today we have received visible confirmation that the current chairmanship of the OSCE and the countries of the West are not interested in objective and equal dialogue."

Neighbouring Lithuania, which holds the OSCE chairmanship in 2011, has taken a vocal stance against countries it says fall short on respecting free speech.

The request for a mission uses an OSCE procedure called the "Moscow Mechanism".

It is used by member states when dialogue at OSCE meetings in Vienna appears to have reached a dead end.

The push is being led by the Czech Republic and backed by several European countries, the United States and Canada.

Those states rather than the OSCE itself would organise the mission.

After the election which reinstated President Alexander Lukashenko, Belarusian police arrested nearly 700 protesters and reporters during a night of demonstrations, dispersed violently by riot police.

OSCE election monitors said the vote count was flawed and criticised police for being heavy-handed.

The remarks angered Minsk, which forced the OSCE to close down its office there by denying it an extension.

The United States and the European Union, who have called for protesters to be freed, have also imposed restrictions on Lukashenko including a travel ban on him and 150 officials. Minsk, like OSCE heavyweight Russia, has stood by the election result and says it is fulfilling its OSCE obligations.

OSCE standards include upholding a democratic society, free media and protecting human rights in general.


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