Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called on the United Nations to condemn the violent crackdown by the government of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on protesters who charge he falsified his reelection victory last month.
Speaking to a virtual informal session of the UN Security Council on September 4, Tsikhanouskaya also urged the United Nations to send an international monitoring mission to Belarus and said the UN Human Rights Commission should hold a special session on the human rights situation there.
"We, the Belarusian people, need the help of the United Nations in order to stop blatant human rights violations and the cynical disregard of human dignity...in the middle of Europe," said Tsikhanouskaya, who fled to neighboring Lithuania days after the election.
Lukashenka, in power since 1994, was declared the victor in the disputed August 9 poll with some 80 percent of the vote. Tsikhanouskaya, who drew thousands to campaign rallies, was given less than 10 percent. The 37-year-old former English teacher and translator says she was the real winner, charging that election officials falsified the result.
No election under Lukashenka’s rule has been deemed free or fair by the West.
Belarus has been rocked by protests since the August 9 election, multiple strike actions at major factories, and a walkout by students on the first day of class on September 1. Thousands have been detained and hundreds beaten by police in the postelection crackdown, sparking international outrage.
"We ask the United Nations to condemn the excessive use of force by the Belarusian security services against protesters," Tsikhanouskaya said in her address.
She also called for individuals implicated in the violence against protesters to be slapped with sanctions.
"Collaboration with the regime of Lukashenka at the moment means support for violence and blatant violations of human rights," she said.
In her address, Tsikhanouskaya, 37, called for the release of all political prisoners, including her husband, Syarhey Tsikhanouski, a popular anti-corruption vlogger whose own bid for president was halted by his arrest for organizing “mass unrest,” charges he and supporters say were politically motivated.
The special online meeting of the UN Security Council was organized by the Baltic state Estonia, a current member of the 15-strong council.
Estonia wanted to provide a forum for "those who are being silenced," Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said in a statement.
"Public pressure can help reduce violence and grave human rights violations," Reinsalu said.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our coverage as Belarusians take to the streets to demand the resignation of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and call for new elections after official results from the August 9 presidential poll gave Lukashenka a landslide victory.
At least 7,000 protesters have been detained throughout the course of the demonstrations. UN human rights experts say they have received 450 reports of torture and abuse of protesters in recent weeks.
The United States and European Union have criticized the vote and condemned the postelection crackdown in the Eastern European country of some 9.5 million.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun told RFE/RL on September 1 that Washington and its European partners will continue to press Belarusian authorities to free political prisoners, end violence against protesters, and allow citizens to choose their government through a free and fair election.
Tsikhanouskaya described Lukashenka as an illegitimate leader, "desperately clinging onto power and refusing to listen to his people."
"A nation cannot and should not be a hostage to one man's thirst for power," she said. "The regime of Mr. Lukashenka is morally bankrupt, legally questionable, and simply untenable in the eyes of our nation."
With reporting by Current Time, Reuters, and dpa