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Opposition Countries Fail to Block UN Debate on Belarus Human Rights

FILE - Police beat a protester at a rally following disputed presidential elections, in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 11, 2020.

Disruptive tactics by Belarus, Russia, China and Venezuela have failed to derail a special debate on the human rights situation in Belarus from taking place at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The debate began with a report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, which described the violent crackdowns by Belarusian security forces against thousands of peaceful demonstrators following the country’s disputed presidential election.

However, it was the intervention of the U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus that provoked a firestorm of protests from Belarus and its supporters. They said only representatives of states could speak at a special debate and that others, including the human rights chief and the special rapporteur, must be excluded.

The Russian ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, accused the council of violating procedural rules.

“In this case, we once again repeat our request and the request of other states to cease the dialogue with the special rapporteur, which is not provided for by the format for urgent debates with states,” Gatilov said.

President of the U.N. Human Rights Council Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger rejected the assertion.

“We are following exactly the procedure we have always had in the case of urgent debates. And, this is the sixth in the line where we start with the high commissioner and then a limited number of speakers, who are not necessarily on behalf of states. We have done that before and that is what we are doing today,” Tichy-Fisslberger said.

FILE - A woman cries holding a poster showing a hospitalized protester allegedly beaten by police during a rally, in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 15, 2020.
FILE - A woman cries holding a poster showing a hospitalized protester allegedly beaten by police during a rally, in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 15, 2020.

The special rapporteur, Anais Marin, proceeded to present a searing account of the brutal use of force by security officers against journalists, passers-by, women and even children.

Marin said more than 10,000 people have been abusively arrested and thousands savagely beaten. She said she has received reports of more than 500 cases of torture committed by Belarusian state agents.

“During the week of 10th of August, hundreds of detainees were subjected to humiliating conditions and degrading treatment. I have been informed of allegations of rape, electrocution, and other forms of physical and psychological torture. What is more, the perpetrators seem confident that they will not be prosecuted, because of prevailing lawlessness and impunity,” Marin said.

In a video message from Lithuania, opposition candidate in the Belarusian presidential elections Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called for talks with authorities to look for peaceful solutions to the crisis in their country.

She demanded an end to violence against peaceful citizens and the immediate release of all political prisoners.

Belarus’ ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Yuri Ambrazevich called accusations of sexual violence, forced disappearances and political detentions of protesters unfounded.

He accused the losers of the election of using the mass media and social networks to present a lopsided picture of reality.