A United Nations representative says he is gravely concerned about what he calls the continuous deterioration of human rights in Belarus.
Special Rapporteur Adrian Severin says he has concluded that Belarus is a controlled society that is close to becoming a dictatorship.
In a report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, he expressed concern about media freedom, and the unresolved disappearances in 1999 and 2000 of four opposition figures. He also said he was told torture is routinely used to get information from detainees.
He said lack of national identity and a real and strong civil society are also problems in Belarus.
The Belarusian ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva has rejected the report as biased and accused the rapporteur of interfering in Belarusian internal affairs. He is demanding an apology.
Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.