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Belarus
11.08.20
Statements

Halt violence against peaceful protesters and restore internet access

Geneva, 11 August 2020 – The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) condemns the mass arrests and the excessive use of force by law enforcement authorities against peaceful protesters before, on and especially after the August 9th presidential poll in Belarus. The OMCT further denounces the countrywide internet shutdown put in place by the authorities to suppress the spread of information about electoral fraud and police brutality against the protesters.

In the past 48 hours, police and security forces detained more than 3000 people, including many journalists, for participating in overwhelmingly peaceful rallies against what have been called the most unfair elections in the country’s history. The exact location of several detained journalists remains unknown. Eyewitness accounts, corroborated by photo and video footage, reported riot police using excessive force, including water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets, resulting in dozens of injured protesters. Other sources provide harrowing accounts of detained protesters being subjected to ill-treatment and even torture. At least one protester died in as yet unclarified circumstances. Meanwhile, the main opposition candidate fled the country, after she was threatened and detained for seven hours when she attempted to file an official complaint against the election result. According to preliminary results the incumbent obtained more than 80% of the vote.

The OMCT calls on Belarusian authorities to immediately stop the inexcusable violence against the protesters, release them from custody, and respect their human rights and procedural guarantees under all circumstances. The right to protest is enshrined in national and international law, and it is a State obligation to ensure its enjoyment. All allegations of torture and ill-treatment, as well as the use of excessive and disproportionate force by law enforcement units, must be promptly investigated and all perpetrators must be brought to justice. Law enforcement officers must be instructed against using further physical violence towards peaceful demonstrators.

The OMCT supports the appeals by Civic Solidarity Platform[1] and several leading Belarus human rights organizations urging law enforcement authorities to refrain from using violence against demonstrators and calling for an impartial investigation into all reports of police brutality.[2]

Finally, the OMCT denounces the countrywide internet blackout imposed by the authorities[3] because it thwarts people’s legitimate right of access to information and impairs accountability of police and other officials responsible for the violent crackdown.

Press contact:

OMCT: Ms. Iolanda Jaquemet / +41 79 539 41 06 / Email : ij@omct.org (Geneva)

[1] < https://www.civicsolidarity.org/article/1676/civic-solidarity-platform-appeal-regard-recent-events-belarus >

[2] < https://mailchi.mp/c6cd61bf83b9/release-siarhei-tsikhanouski-5217433?e=92944f09f6 >

[3] < https://netblocks.org/reports/internet-disruption-hits-belarus-on-election-day-YAE2jKB3 >

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