LIVE: Tikhanovskaya speaks at informal UN Security Council meeting on Belarus
The leader of the Belarusian opposition called on the world community to decisively respond to the lawlessness happening in Belarus
Officials from Belarus and several allied countries tried on Friday to block a video message from the leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya to the UN Human Rights Council, in which she called for the “most decisive” international response to Minsk’s abuses.
Tikhanovskaya demanded “immediate attention of the international community” to her country, as there continues to be a harsh suppression of protests over the rigged elections, which resulted in the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.
However, as soon as her short video message began broadcasting during the rarely convened urgent debates at the UN HRC, Belarusian Ambassador Yuri Ambrazevich demanded to turn it off. He repeatedly interrupted the viewing, raising procedural objections and insisting that Tikhanovskaya’s words “have nothing to do with the merits of the case … with the events that are taking place today.”.
His objections were dismissed by HRC President Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger of Austria, who argued that Tikhanovskaya’s involvement was appropriate in the context of an urgent debate on the rights situation in Belarus..
A full-day debate, organized at the request of the European Union, focuses on violations in Belarus, and in particular on the dispersal of unprecedented scale demonstrations that began in the country after the controversial elections on 9 August..
Lukashenko, who on Thursday warned of a possible “war” with some neighboring countries, refused to step down and turned to Russia for support. Meanwhile, his security forces detained thousands of protesters, many of whom accused police of beatings and torture. Several people died during the dispersal.
Tikhanovskaya, who took refuge in neighboring Lithuania, insists that the country’s violation of its international obligations to respect “human dignity and fundamental human rights … means that the international community has the right to the most drastic measures.”.
“The scale and brutality of the regime’s broad measures clearly violate all international norms,” she said..
Many countries have sounded the alarm. “We have witnessed a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests,” German spokesman Michael Freicher von Ungern-Sternberg said on behalf of the EU..
He expressed concern about “reports of attacks on peaceful demonstrators, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as harassment, intimidation and detention of opposition leaders”.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Ambrazevich of Minsk criticized the “one-sided picture of reality presented by the losers in the elections”, denying accusations of abuse by the authorities. He insisted that the protesters used violence and injured many law enforcement officials..
Ambrazevich and his colleagues from Russia, Venezuela and China also expressed numerous objections to the statements of the UN Deputy Head of Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif and Anais Marin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of rights in Belarus, saying that they should not have taken part in the debate.
More than 10,000 people were “illegally arrested for participating in peaceful protests,” more than 500 people were tortured by government officials, Marin said..
“I have been informed of allegations of rape, electric shocks and other forms of physical and psychological torture,” Marin told the videoconferencing council, adding that the perpetrators appear to be acting with “impunity.”.
The debate on Friday is expected to culminate in a vote on a draft resolution submitted by the EU, which insists that a huge number of serious violations urgently require an “independent investigation.” The resolution also expresses concern about widespread attacks, harassment and intimidation against political opposition, human rights defenders and journalists..
The draft text calls on the Belarusian authorities to “ensure an independent, transparent and impartial investigation of all allegations of human rights violations in the context of the elections” and “guarantee access to justice and redress for victims, and bring those responsible to full accountability”.
The authors of the resolution called on the office of the UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet to closely monitor the situation in the country and present its findings in a report during the next session of the Council in March 2021..
At its last emergency meeting in June of this year, the UN Human Rights Council discussed the issue of racism and police brutality in the United States and elsewhere in the wake of unrest following the death in police custody of African American George Floyd..