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UN Rapporteur Says Belarusian Repression Now Worse Than 'Catastrophic'

UN envoy Anais Marin is seen speaking via video link before a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council on allegations of torture and other serious violations in Belarus in September 2020.

UN special rapporteur Anais Marin has cited "terrible repression" and says the crackdown in Belarus on the country's human rights groups has hindered international monitoring of abuses there.

Marin said via video link on September 7 at which she discussed strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka's targeting of the Vyasna human rights group that since she's not allowed in Belarus, Vyasna's volunteers were "crucial" to her work.

"The terrible repression that is currently targeting Vyasna has a direct negative impact on our capacity in Geneva to follow up on allegations of human rights violations, to gather testimonies and to properly report on the repression, and this is probably no coincidence," Marin said.

At least 10 people, including the leader of Vyasna, were detained during sweeps by security forces of offices and homes of lawyers and activists in mid-July.

Vyasna has been crucial for many international media efforts to track repression since a disputed presidential election in August 2020 sparked a year of unprecedented protests, prompting mass arrests of tens of thousands, expulsions and media closures, and other persecution.

Marin said the detention of Vyasna's leadership was "arbitrary" but "politically motivated." She demanded that they "not be subjected to ill-treatment in detention."

"Last year, I assessed the situation in Belarus as catastrophic," Marin said. "I'm lacking words now to express my interpretation of the situation. I could not imagine it could get so much worse."

On September 6, leading Belarusian opposition figures Maryya Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak were sentenced to 11 and 10 years in prison for conspiracy in a process the United States called "shameful" amid the ongoing crackdown.

Based on reporting by Reuters