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2021.01.27 17:30

Belarus authorities fail to investigate torture accusations, Amnesty says

RFE/RL2021.01.27 17:30

Belarusian authorities have failed to investigate allegations of torture by protesters detained during anti-government demonstrations calling for the resignation of strongman Alexander Lukashenko, a report issued on January 27 by Amnesty International says.

The report says the victims, not the perpetrators, are being punished and called on the international community to take steps to deliver justice and hold the perpetrators accountable.

“We have repeatedly called for effective investigations to bring those responsible to justice, but there is little hope of that from a system that not only protects police with anonymity, but also encourages intimidation and further violence against victims and witnesses,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The report says there have been no criminal investigations launched into the more than 900 complaints of abuses committed by law enforcement officers that Belarusian authorities admit they have received since protests began after the presidential election in August 2020 that Lukashenko claims he won.

Read more: Can Lithuania put Belarusian regime officers behind bars?

Authorities have instead launched criminal cases against protesters, charging them with participating in mass riots and violence against police officers.

Struthers said the failure of the Belarusian justice system to ensure accountability means justice must now be pursued internationally.

“Governments, international and regional organisations should use all their leverage to pressure the Belarusian authorities to end this assault on human rights,” she said.

Amnesty International has compiled the accounts of peaceful protesters who said they were beaten, held in stress positions, and deprived of food, drinking water or medical care for days.

Belarus has witnessed regular protests since Lukashenko, in power since 1994, was declared the winner of the August election, which the opposition says was rigged.

Nearly 160 demonstrators were detained over the past weekend in the most recent roundup of protesters.

Read more: Surviving captivity in Minsk. Belarusian detainee recalls abuse and endless beatings

The Amnesty International report adds to previous credible descriptions of torture during a widening security crackdown, which has also seen the arrests of many independent journalists.

Several protesters have been killed and thousands arrested during the demonstrations demanding Lukashenka's resignation.

Lukashenko has denied any wrongdoing and refuses to negotiate with the opposition on stepping down and holding new elections.

The European Union, United States, Canada, and other countries refuse to recognise Lukashenko, 66, as the legitimate leader of Belarus and have slapped him and senior Belarusian officials with sanctions in response to the “falsification” of the vote and postelection crackdown.

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is scheduled to speak on January 27 at an online discussion on how the EU plans to keep Belarus on the agenda and provide more political support to Belarusian civil society.

This story originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, partners of LRT English.