EU calls for UN monitoring of Belarus rights abuses

High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet speaks during the opening of the 45th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, 14 September 2020. [Pool/EPA/EFE]

The European Union is calling for close monitoring of the human rights situation in Belarus by the UN human rights chief, adding to pressure on Minsk following what it calls a “fraudulent election”, a draft document showed on Tuesday (15 September).

The resolution seen by Reuters will be brought before the UN human rights council in Geneva as members prepare to hold an urgent debate on Friday on alleged human rights violations in Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko won re-election last month to perpetuate 26 years in power.

Lukashenko denies that the vote was rigged, saying foreign powers are behind protests aimed at reversing the result.

The document lists a litany of alleged abuses including killings, systemic torture, enforced disappearances and abductions and arbitrary detentions.

“The Human Rights Council…expresses deep concern about the overall human rights situation in Belarus, and its deterioration in the run-up and particularly in the aftermath of the fraudulent presidential election on 9 August 2020,” the draft resolution said.

The draft, due to be submitted by Germany, can be modified to get more countries on board. However, it is expected to be approved in its current form since it stops short of calling for a commission of inquiry – a more drastic measure reserved for the worst human rights crises.

It seeks two formal updates from the UN top rights official, Michelle Bachelet, on the situation there, an oral one with recommendations by year-end and a written one at the next council session in early 2021. It also calls for the UN Special Rapporteur to have “free, full and unhindered access”.

Bachelet’s office cannot force countries to take action on her findings but her voice carries moral authority.

Belarus, which objected strongly to the debate proposal when it was introduced on Monday, is not currently a member of the council and cannot block it.

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