GENEVA - Belarus’s human rights record is in the spotlight as the U.N. Human Rights Council begins its Universal Periodic Review of nations’ rights records. Belarus has come under intense criticism for its crackdown on demonstrators who have challenged the outcome of last August’s presidential elections.
This is the third time since the review process began in 2008 that Belarus’s human rights record has come under scrutiny. The meeting was aimed at taking stock of developments that have occurred in the country since the previous reviews.
The head of the Belarus delegation was unable to prevent nations attending the meeting from fixating on the violent events, which followed August’s allegedly rigged presidential elections.
Belarus’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Yuri Ambrazevich, said his government has spoken publicly on this subject several times. The ambassador spoke through an interpreter.
“In that connection, I would like to appeal to all participants today not to turn the UPR on Belarus only into a discussion of the post-election events…Belarus wishes, has the will and has the necessary instruments itself peacefully to restore civility in society on the basis of a balance of interests of our society as a whole,” said Ambrazevich.
The United Nations reports more than 10,000 people have been arrested, thousands severely beaten, and hundreds tortured by state agents.
Ambassador Ambrazevich tried to turn the focus of the debate onto the improvements being made in all areas of public life. He cited progress in gender equality, in the protection of vulnerable people, of the disabled and special provisions to help mothers and their children. Ambrazevich touted his country’s public health system, saying it provided free medical care for all.
Countries nevertheless were not dissuaded from expressing concerns about Belarus’s repression of peaceful demonstrators and what those nations cited as ongoing violations of human rights.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Andrew Bremberg, called the August 9 presidential elections fraudulent. He denounced the ongoing use of violence, intimidation and repression of the Belarusian people.
“The United States recommends that Belarus: One, immediately cease its brutal crackdown against the Belarusian people, including threats to use lethal force against peaceful protesters and employment of severe abuses against detainees, and hold those responsible accountable," said Bremerg. "Two, immediately release all political prisoners and those detained for participation in election-related protests.”
Besides its detractors, Belarus also had a number of supporters. Countries such as China, Syria and Venezuela praised what they said was Belarus’s promotion and protection of human rights. Those countries applauded what they said were the political rights and democratic freedoms enjoyed by its people.
They condemned efforts to destabilize the country and told the international community to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Belarus in the name of human rights.