Belarus Must End Police Brutality on Protesters: UN Experts

Democratic forces in Belarus have been protesting the brutal regime since August 2020. Photo: European Parliament
Democratic forces in Belarus have been protesting the brutal regime since August 2020. Photo: European Parliament

A group of UN human rights experts* on April 1 called on Belarus to end the continued pattern of excessive use of force, arrests, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment against protesters and the repression of journalists and media personnel.

On 25 March 2021, 176 people reportedly were detained during peaceful protests commemorating Freedom Day, and two days later, seven journalists were among 247 people detained.

In the lead-up to Freedom Day the Investigative Committee of Belarus, an oversight body of the state, had warned and threatened protesters planning to participate in “unauthorized mass events” with criminal liability.

“We are alarmed at the high numbers of alleged arbitrary arrest and detention that took place last week which demonstrate a continued pattern of police brutality against demonstrators. We are concerned that, so far, security forces have not been held accountable for excessive use of force both in the pre-electoral period and after the presidential elections on 9 August 2020,” the experts said.

“We are deeply concerned that, instead of bringing perpetrators to justice, the authorities are arbitrarily seeking to silence all forms of dissent, through unjustified violence, intimidation and by bringing criminal charges against those who exercise their fundamental rights, or defend victims of human rights violations.”

Failure of UN Human Rights Office

The UN human rights officials can only release random reports and meaningless statements about conflicts. But they repeatedly fail to save the lives of the victims of human rights violations and other crimes perpetrated by cruel authorities in different countries. Since the UN human rights office has lost its relevance, it must be shuttered immediately. ~ Rakesh Raman

In 2020, many journalists and human rights defenders were reportedly harassed and detained while monitoring assemblies, on the grounds of allegedly “participating in, organizing or financing unauthorized events” simply for exercising their legitimate functions. This criminalization is a worrying trend that must stop immediately.

The experts stressed that, “the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is not confined to acts carried out against persons deprived of their liberty, but also covers excessive police violence, such as during arrest and the policing of assemblies”.

Reports indicate that the Investigative Committee has dismissed the use of violence and anti-riot equipment by law enforcement officers as justified and proportionate and no criminal cases have been opened in courts against security forces in relation to allegations of torture and ill-treatment committed last year.

“Ensuring institutional and personal accountability for human rights violations is an obligation for states under international law. Failure to do so not only perpetuates the prevailing culture of impunity but may even amount to criminal complicity in serious crimes,” the experts said.

“We have raised our concerns directly with the Government and stressed the need for prompt, effective, thorough and impartial investigations with a view to ensuring accountability in cases of arbitrary detention and torture and ill-treatment.”

The experts said they will continue to engage with the authorities of Belarus and closely monitor the situation.

*The experts: Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Miriam Estrada-Castillo, Mumba Malila, Seong-Phil Hong; Ms. Anaïs Marin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus; Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

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