Human Rights Watch argues that most of the actions took place after President Lukashenko’s re-election in August; official Minsk denies accusations that elections were rigged
The international human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Belarusian security forces of detaining thousands of people and torturing hundreds of protesters after the August 9 elections, which resulted in the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko for a sixth term..
The violent crackdown on protests shortly after the elections resulted in the detention of nearly 7,000 people. At least three people were killed during the protests and hundreds of others were injured as police aggressively dispersed peaceful protesters with rubber bullets, truncheons and stun grenades. Lukashenko claims foreign powers are behind the protests and denies that the voting results were falsified.
The conclusions reached by HRW are based on interviews with 27 former detainees, most of whom were arrested between August 8 and 12, 14 people who knew about the arrests, the study of 67 videos and written testimonies of detainees and their relatives.
Some of the people HRW spoke to said they had been detained in Minsk, Grodno and Gomel for participating in peaceful demonstrations. Others claimed that the security forces took them off the streets or pulled them out of their vehicles with “extreme brutality.”.
According to the detainees, they were beaten, electrocuted and otherwise tortured, resulting in injuries such as broken bones, electrical burns, minor head injuries, kidney damage and cracked teeth. At least one of the cases involved the rape of a detained person.
Mass arrests resumed in the first week of September. The Interior Ministry said 600 people were detained on 6 September alone. Another 774 people were arrested in Minsk and other cities for holding unauthorized demonstrations on Sunday.
The Belarusian authorities also harass foreign journalists and local reporters working for foreign and local independent media outlets. According to HRW, authorities revoked dozens of journalists’ accreditation, kicked them out of the country or harassed them..
On Monday, the UN Human Rights Council began an emergency two-week meeting on Belarus.
Belarus unrest: UN Human Rights Council debates violence & arrests
While HRW called on the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Monday to launch an investigation into the allegations, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet demanded an investigation into the Belarusian security forces.
“Given their scale and number, all allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by security forces must be documented and investigated in order to bring those responsible to justice,” Bachelet said in a speech in Geneva on Monday..