Sat, 26 Sep 2020

MINSK -- The United Nations Human Rights Council has agreed to hold an urgent debate on the human rights situation in Belarus on September 18, amid a crackdown on protesters calling for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to resign.

Twenty-five mostly Western countries on the council on September 14 voted in favor of a motion submitted by Germany on behalf of the European Union.

Venezuela and the Philippines opposed the debate, with 20 abstentions by developing and emerging countries.

German envoy Michael von Ungern-Sternberg described a 'steep deterioration' in the situation in Belarus since last month's disputed presidential election that gave Lukashenka a sixth term.

'Enforced disappearances, forced abductions, expulsions, and arbitrary detentions continue to take place every day" in the country, he said.

Belarusian Ambassador Yury Ambrazevich objected to the move, which he described as 'a form of direct intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state' by EU countries.

The bloc "is creating the conditions for preserving this political standoff in the society of Belarus,' he said.

Addressing the Human Rights Council, the UN human rights chief said her office was receiving 'alarming reports of the ongoing violent repression of peaceful demonstrations ' in Belarus.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that reports continue to indicate "unnecessary or excessive use of force by law enforcement officials; thousands of arrests, many of them apparently arbitrary; and hundreds of allegations of torture or ill-treatment, including against children, with some reports indicating sexual violence."

Machelet also noted the reported abductions by unidentified individuals of people associated with the opposition and the arrests and harassment of journalists reporting on the protests.

"All allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by the security forces should be documented and investigated, with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice," she added.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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