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UN Rights Body Looks To Investigate Belarus's Crackdown On Protesters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrations has included tens of thousands of detentions. [Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters]

The United Nations Human Rights Council has approved a resolution to create a team to investigate Belarus's violent crackdown on demonstrators protesting against presidential elections last year that authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka claims to have won.

Members of the body in Geneva voted 20 to 7 on March 24 to create the investigative team, with 20 abstentions. Russia, a staunch ally of Belarus, was one of the countries to vote against the measure.

"We must show our support to the people of Belarus and hold perpetrators of grave human rights violations accountable to end the vicious cycle of impunity," Portugal's ambassador, Rui Macieira, speaking for the EU, told the Human Rights Council.

Portugal currently holds the bloc's rotating presidency and the resolution was put forward by the 27-member group.

Lukashenka was declared president for a sixth straight term after the August 9 election despite the opposition's belief that its candidate, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, was the rightful winner.

The brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrations has included tens of thousands of detentions and thousands of criminal cases.

About 1,000 cases of torture have been documented by human rights NGOs, 290 people are currently being held as political prisoners, and at least eight protesters have been killed, according to Tsikhanouskaya.

The text of the UN resolution approved on March 24 "condemns the ongoing grave violations of human rights in Belarus in connection with the 2020 presidential election, including the systematic denial of human rights and fundamental freedoms".

The Belarusian ambassador to the council characterized the resolution as a "destructive signal" and "another example of the manipulation of the UN by Western states in their own political interests."

Lukashenka, who is not recognized by many Western governments, has refused to meet with opposition leaders to discuss their demands for his exit and a fresh election.

The opposition has said it is looking to reinvigorate the pro-democracy protests on March 25, the anniversary of the Belarusian People's Republic, which existed for less than a year in 1918.

© Reuters and AP, 2021

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