Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka
UN diplomats have slammed Belarus for its human rights abuses and for helping Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, accusing Minsk of "widespread and systematic" rights violations since a disputed 2020 presidential election handed authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka victory despite opposition claims the balloting was rigged.
In a debate accompanying the release on March 17 of a report on the situation in Belarus surrounding the election and a deadly crackdown on dissent by Lukashenka's regime, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet accused Lukashenka of using "excessive force" in operations that detained more than 13,000 citizens for protesting the vote.
"Our examination finds that the government has sought to suppress all forms of criticism and has actively tried to prevent justice, accountability, and truth about the violations committed," she said.
"I urge the government of Belarus to immediately release all prisoners sentenced on politically motivated grounds and cease all other ongoing human rights violations," she added.
The 18-page report said individuals were targeted by Belarusian security officials with "a consistent pattern of unnecessary or disproportionate" use of force, arrests, detention, and "torture or ill-treatment," including rape and sexual and gender-based violence, and the "systematic denial" of the rights to due process and to a fair trial.
"The failure to effectively investigate human rights violations, including allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, is a contravention of the State’s obligations under international human rights law," according to the report, which Belarus claimed was "full to the brim with insinuations and... accusations."
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Michele Taylor, also called out Lukashenka for "enabling" Russia's "unprovoked war" against Ukraine.
Russia has used Belarusian territory as a staging ground for its invasion of Ukraine, with which Belarus shares a border.
"The Belarus authorities' facilitation of Russian aggression has contributed to an unconscionable humanitarian toll on the people of Ukraine... and to a dangerous crisis which could irrevocably harm global security and that of every sovereign state," she said.
A statement from the Nordic-Baltic countries, read out by Iceland's foreign minister, Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir, noted Lukashenka's "destructive path at home and abroad."
"The relentless attack on civil society and independent voices and the widespread use of disinformation in Belarus must stop," she said.