GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. rights experts accused Belarus of systematic abuses, including the repression of protesters and dissidents that could amount to crimes against humanity, in a report published on Friday.
The paper issued by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights covered a period in the run-up to the disputed presidential election on Aug. 9, 2020, and a crackdown on demonstrators and critics in the months that followed.
President Alexander Lukashenko, a staunch Russian ally who secured his sixth term in office in the vote, has dismissed accusations of violations and accused foreign powers of backing the protests.
The Belarusian foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
“There are sufficient grounds to believe that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed in Belarus,” the report said.
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“Some of the violations may also amount to crimes against humanity,” it added.
Violations included the security services’ “widespread unnecessary and disproportionate use of force,” torture, arbitrary arrests and impunity, the report said.
The abuses “appear to have been part of a campaign of violence and repression” against those critical of the government, the report added.
“We do regret that the government of Belarus has been unwilling to recognise the mandate, to positively engage with our examination and to grant access to the country,” Elizabeth Throssell, spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters.
Lukashenko has ruled the former Soviet country with an iron hand since 1994.
Hundreds were detained and beaten during demonstrations after Lukashenko was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential vote, a result which the opposition and Western countries said was fraudulent.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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