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Belarus: President Concentrates Power And Respect For Rights Worsens

Washington, 26 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. says that nearly all power in Belarus is concentrated in the hands of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, whose record on respect for human rights got worse in 1998.

In its annual report on human rights practices in nearly 200 countries, the State Department said Lukashenka sought last year to neutralize domestic opposition to his attempts to lead the country back toward Soviet-era authoritarian practices.

In Belarus, the U.S. says the rights of citizens to change the government are sharply limited, with restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of choice, freedom of movement, freedom of religion and freedom of the press.

The U.S. says security forces in Belarus practiced the arbitrary arrest and detention of citizens, and it noted an increase in the number of politically motivated arrests.

The reports says the security services infringed on individual rights of privacy and spied on opposition politicians. International human rights monitors -- says the U.S. -- were closely watched and frequently harassed.