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UN Rights Body Adopts EU Resolution On Monitoring Alleged Rights Violations In Belarus


Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya speaks on September 18 via a video link at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council on allegations of torture and other serious abuses in her country.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution submitted by the European Union to launch closer monitoring of alleged rights violations in Belarus amid a crackdown on protesters calling for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to resign.

The move came despite efforts by Russia, which has deepened its support to prop up Lukashenka, to water down the resolution that was adopted on September 18.

The council agreed to give the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet a mandate to closely monitor the situation in Belarus and submit an oral report with recommendations by the end of the year.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said the UN’s move set a "dangerous precedent," and accused the council of meddling in its internal affairs.

The EU resolution was adopted after 23 countries voted in favor, two against, and 22 abstained at the 47-member state Geneva forum.

Russia, which does not have a vote as an observer, submitted 17 amendments to the resolution, but all were rejected.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lukashenka's main ally, agreed to loan Minsk $1.5 billion at a summit on September 14, and the two countries are conducting joint military training exercises in Belarus.

The UN's move came after Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya demanded Minsk allow an international mission to document possible crimes committed by Lukashenka and his government in a crackdown on protesters and media following a disputed election.

Her remarks came as the UN warned of the possibility of "another iron curtain" descending in Europe.

Speaking at a special urgent session of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva on September 18, Tsikhanouskaya, who joined in via video from Lithuania where she is in self-exile, called for an end to violence against the protesters by the Belarus authorities and a new free and fair presidential election.

"I once again emphasize our willingness to talk with the authorities and look for a peaceful solution to the crisis that has affected our nation," she said.

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The session comes a day after the European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution refusing to recognize Lukashenka as president of Belarus once his current term expires in November, rejecting the results of an August 9 election that the opposition and the West have said was rigged.

'Catastrophic' Situation

Thousands of people have been detained and beaten by police while nearly all of the opposition's key leaders have been forced to leave the country or been arrested in a widening crackdown by Lukashenka, who has refused to negotiate with the opposition.

"Let's not allow another iron curtain to descend on the European continent," Anais Marin, UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus, told the debate, calling the current situation in Belarus "catastrophic."

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Marin, who said some 10,000 arrests have been made during the crackdown, was interrupted during her speech several times by delegations from Belarus, its ally Russia, and others.

The Belarusian ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yury Ambrazevich, said it was not acceptable to use the body to interfere in a country's election.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and Interfax
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