UN: Climate of Fear and Impunity Reigns in Belarus

A U.N. investigator warns that systematic and widespread repression in Belarus is eroding peoples’ civic and political rights. The investigator’s report was presented Wednesday at a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council. Belarus boycotted the meeting.

Special Rapporteur Anais Marin says the human rights situation in Belarus has gone from bad to worse. She says authorities are enacting laws that are stripping the rights and freedoms of their citizens.

She says the criminal code has been amended to restrict freedom of expression, the right to peacefully assemble and other fundamental rights. She says the new laws retroactively criminalize activities that previously were only considered administrative offenses.

Speaking through an interpreter Wednesday in Geneva, she warned the action raises the troubling prospect of potential abuse resulting from the arbitrary application of very restrictive legislation.

“Emblematic in that respect is that the scope of the death penalty in Belarus has been expanded by including cases of planning or attempts to plan terrorist acts. Terms that are not clearly defined moreover. This paves the way for abusive application of the death penalty, even if no crime has been committed.”

Investigator Marin says the deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus has resulted in the significant shrinking of civic space. She says the government is pursuing a deliberate policy to eradicate all media and expression of dissent.

Marin says 1,214 people are imprisoned in Belarus on politically motivated charges. She says the climate of fear and impunity in Belarus has forced tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of repressed and intimidated Belarusians into exile. She speaks through an interpreter.

“Let me add that my mandate has been informed of severe repression by the authorities against anti-war protesters in Belarus, but also difficulties and cases of discrimination and hate speech that certain Belarussians have been forced to leave their country have endured since the start of the Russian armed aggression in Ukraine.”

Marin urges the international community to support and protect the human rights of those Belarussian nationals that have been forced into exile due to repression and intimidation by the state.

Belarus boycotted Wednesday’s meeting, renouncing its right of reply. Contacted by VOA after the meeting, the Belarussian U.N. mission in Geneva said it had no comment.

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