Un Calls On Belarus To Investigate Torture And Death Of Politicial Prisoners

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — United Nations special representatives on human rights have called on Belarusian authorities to investigate the torture and deaths of political prisoners.

A report produced by the UN special rapporteur for Belarus says five people who have died in custody in Belarus were convicted on politically motivated charges.

The report noted that none of the deceased underwent an autopsy and said that the fact the prisoners died while in jail “creates a presumption of arbitrary deprivation of life by State authorities." It called on Belarusian authorities to launch ”prompt, effective, impartial and transparent investigations into all deaths in custody.”

The UN human rights advocates said they were particularly concerned about several Belarusian opposition politicians, lawyers and activists who are currently in prison and whose whereabouts have not been known for more than a year.

According to the Viasna human rights center, there are currently 1,401 political prisoners behind bars in the country, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski.

The UN report criticized conditions in Belarusian jails and said prisoners are subjected to “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in places of detention.”

Political prisoners are particularly singled out, the report said, as they are reportedly made to wear a special yellow mark, are often placed in solitary confinement and are deprived of communication with the outside world.

President Alexander Lukashenko led a harsh crackdown against his critics in 2020 when he declared himself the winner of an election widely dismissed by the Belarusian opposition and the West as fraudulent. The UN report said authorities in Belarus have carried out a “targeted eradication” of civil society in Belarus since Lukashenko's disputed election.

“The human rights situation in Belarus remains extremely preoccupying" and requires sustained attention, the report said.