The five Special Rapporteurs expressed outrage at the arrest, alleged torture and forced confession of opposition journalist Roman Protacevic (Raman Bratacevic), who was arbitrarily detained on 23 May in a case that has drawn international condemnation.
Protasevich, 26, was on a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania that was forcibly diverted to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, due to an assumed bomb threat.
“Reckless” arrest, news of torture
He was arrested when passengers disembarked and charged with inciting public disorder and social hatred, following the disputed August 2020 presidential election, which saw long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko return to power, leading to months of mass protests.
“The reckless manner in which Roman Protasevich was arrested, reports that he may have been tortured to extract a false confession, deprived of contact with his lawyer, and fears that he may face harsh punishment demonstrate a complete disregard for international human rights standards by the authorities in Belarus,” UN experts He said.
The independent experts expressed their deep concern for the life of Mr. Protasevic and called for his immediate release, as well as for other journalists, human rights defenders and activists detained in Belarus.
‘Severe and relentless repression’
The outrageous manner in which Mr. Protacevic was intercepted and arrested shows that there is no end to what this government will do to silence critics. They added that it is a stark example of a crackdown and relentless crackdown on all independent votes since the results of the disputed election in August 2020.
They pointed out that the authorities raided the offices last month blueberry by, the country’s largest independent online news website, which covered the protests after the election results. Home searches of several employees were also conducted, and documents were confiscated.
At least 13 employees, some of whom were unable to contact a lawyer, were reportedly detained in connection with a criminal investigation into tax evasion, allegedly. Last December, the site was stripped of its media license, allegedly for publishing “false information”.
“Recent events indicate that media freedom in Belarus has entered a black hole with no end in sight,” the experts said.
“In the lead-up to and in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, the authorities arbitrarily arrested and beat journalists, opposition members, human rights defenders and citizens participating in peaceful protests, prosecuted them on politically motivated charges, and revoked the accreditation of media workers. They raided their homes and offices and blocked their websites.” .
The experts also expressed serious concern about recent amendments to media and gathering laws, which allow authorities to block the work of any media outlet that publishes content that “threatens national security.”
Similarly, authorities can also block access to websites that publish information “intended to promote extremist activity” or “capable of harming the national interest.”
They urged states to “intensify pressure on the Belarusian authorities to stop attacks on media freedom, release journalists, human rights defenders and others arbitrarily detained; and ensure independent, transparent and impartial investigations into all reported human rights violations committed in the context of the elections, including allegations Torture and arbitrary detention.
The role of special rapporteurs
The five Special Rapporteurs who issued the statement monitor issues such as the human rights situation in Belarus, as well as the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association worldwide.
They were appointed by the United Nations Human Rights CouncilThey are based in Geneva, are not UN employees and are not paid by the organization.
More to track …
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