The European Union is calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council to keep close watch on alleged human rights violations in Belarus ahead of an “urgent debate” on violent tactics used by security forces against demonstrators in the country.
A draft of the resolution, obtained by Reuters, alleges human rights violations including killings, torture, disappearances, abductions and arbitrary detentions.
The government’s response to mostly peaceful demonstrations against last month’s disputed election has been increasingly violent, with masked security forces forcibly arresting protesters and carrying them into unmarked vans.
Many protestors released from detention centers in the Belarusian capital Minsk described being refused food and water, overcrowded cells, having to endure stress positions, police beatings and death threats and the hands of security forces while imprisoned.
Monday, on the heels of weekend demonstrations that reportedly brought over 100,000 protesters demanding Lukashenko’s resignation to Minsk, Lukashenko met Russian President Vladimir Putin, who claims to have set up a police force to help quash the protests, should they get out of hand.
Putin said during their meeting that he “would like Belarusians to sort this situation out on their own” for now, adding “we see Belarus as our closest ally and we will undoubtedly fulfill all our obligations.”
Putin also gave Lukashenko a $1.5 billion loan to help the economically struggling country, a move which was strongly criticized by Lukashenko’s opposition.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Lukashenko’s main opposition challenger and his opponent in the August elections that were almost universally called fraudulent, warned Putin that agreements made with Lukashenko wouldn’t stand with a new government. “I’m very sorry that you have opted to have a dialogue with the usurper and not the Belarusian people,” she said Monday. “I hope Putin realizes that it will be Lukashenko, and not our people, who will have to repay that loan.”
Lukashenko, the 26-year president of Belarus, claimed victory over opponent Tsikhanouskaya in the highly contested election last month. The election was widely dismissed as unfair and protests erupted once Lukashenko claimed victory with 80% of the vote. The government has cracked down heavily on protesters, employing violence and widespread arrests, and pressured the exit of opposition leaders to Lithuania or Poland. Tsikhanouskaya, who demonstrators and opposition leaders see as the rightful president and who was exiled to Lithuania shortly after the election, has called for Lukashenko to step down and for peaceful protests to continue throughout Belarus. Maria Kolesnikova, another opposition leader, was abducted by masked men last week, who tried to force her to leave the country. She reportedly refused to leave and ripped up her passport before being forced into Ukraine, and has since been detained by security forces.