International human rights activists accused Minsk of mass arrests and torture

By | September 15, 2020
International human rights activists accused Minsk of mass arrests and torture

Human Rights Watch claims that most of the actions were taken after President Lukashenko’s re-election in August; official Minsk denies the accusations that the election was rigged.

The international human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the Belarusian security forces of detaining thousands of people and torturing hundreds of protesters after the August 9 elections, as a result of which President Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected for a sixth term.

A brutal crackdown on protests soon after the election led to the detention of almost 7,000 people. At least three people were killed in the protests, and hundreds more were injured as police aggressively dispersed peaceful protesters with rubber bullets, batons, and light-noise grenades. Lukashenko claims that foreign powers are behind the protests and denies that the voting results were rigged.

HRW’s findings are based on interviews with 27 former detainees, most of whom were arrested between August 8 and 12, 14 people who knew about the arrests, a study of 67 videotapes and written testimonies of detainees and their relatives.

Some of the people interviewed by HRW stated that they had been detained in Minsk, Grodno, and Gomel for participation in peaceful demonstrations. Others claimed that security forces picked them up from the streets or pulled them out of cars with “extreme cruelty.

According to detainees, they were subjected to beatings, electric shocks and other forms of torture, resulting in injuries such as broken bones, electric burns, light brain injuries, kidney damage, and cracks in teeth. At least one case involved the rape of a detainee.

Mass arrests resumed in the first week of September. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that 600 people were detained on September 6 alone. Another 774 people were arrested in Minsk and other cities for holding unsanctioned demonstrations on Sunday.

The Belarusian authorities also prosecuted foreign journalists and local reporters working for foreign and local independent media. According to HRW, dozens of journalists had their accreditation revoked by the authorities and were expelled from the country or harassed.

On Monday, the UN Human Rights Council began an emergency two-week session on Belarus.

While HRW called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Monday to launch an investigation into the allegations, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet demanded an investigation into the Belarusian security forces.

“Given their scale and number, all allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by security forces must be documented and investigated with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice,” Bachelet said in a speech in Geneva on Monday.

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