GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - The U.N. human rights office says the government of Belarus continues to commit human rights violations with impunity against peaceful protesters three months after the country’s disputed presidential elections.
Belarusian citizens remain outraged at the outcome of the August 9 presidential election that returned Alexander Lukashenko to power in an election widely seen as fraudulent. They continue to voice their grievances by taking to the streets in protest.
U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said the government has responded to these peaceful demonstrations in a heavy-handed manner, with the use of unnecessary or excessive force by law enforcement officials.
“Arbitrary mass detentions continue. To date, it is estimated more than 25,000 people have been detained, including more than 1,000 who took part in solidarity protests in the capital, Minsk, and throughout Belarus on the 8th of November. Many of those detained have faced administrative charges, in some cases being held for up to 15 days, but the Belarusian authorities are increasingly bringing criminal charges against people,” he said.
Colville said at least 127 students taking part in demonstrations have been expelled from their courses. He said dozens of medical workers and doctors in solidarity with the opposition have been detained. He said the government reportedly has frozen the bank accounts of a charity assisting some 60 alleged victims of violence and torture.
On Thursday, a 31-year-old man, Roman Bondarenko, reportedly died after he allegedly was assaulted by masked men and ill-treated by a member of the security forces. Belarusian officials have denied any role in the death.
If the allegations are proven to be true, Colville said Bondarenko’s death takes government abuse to a whole new level.
“The latest statement from the investigative committee - is an investigative body in Belarus continues to indicate that the authorities for now do not acknowledge that those who attacked Mr. Bondarenko were police officers or otherwise associated with the security apparatus,” he said.
The U.N human rights office is calling on the Belarusian authorities to conduct a thorough, independent investigation into this incident and to publicly share its results. It says the perpetrator should be brought to justice if a crime was found to have been committed.
President Lukashenko, meanwhile, denies that the election was fraudulent and refuses to step down.