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'Catastrophic' human rights situation in Belarus - UN report

Members of the Volny Chor attend a demonstration against the Belarus government at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.
Members of the Volny Chor attend a demonstration against the Belarus government at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. Copyright Markus Schreiber/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Markus Schreiber/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AFP
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Children are reportedly threatened for expressing their own opinions, it found.

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The human rights situation in Belarus remains dire and is getting worse, the UN special rapporteur for the country said on Tuesday.

Anaïs Marin warned the UN Human Rights Council that Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko's regime is deliberately purging civil society of its last dissenting voices.

"The situation remains catastrophic," she stressed. "Unfortunately, it is getting worse all the time."

Marin, who has been in office for five years, reminded the Council she had alerted it two years ago to the "totalitarian turn" taken by Minsk, evidenced by the "disregard for human life and dignity" during the crackdown on peaceful demonstrators after a rigged presidential election in 2020.

According to Marin, "the lack of accountability for human rights violations is fuelling a climate of fear among the victims and their families".

In her statement, Marin reported that more than 1,500 people were still being detained for political reasons, with a daily average of 17 arbitrary arrests since 2020.

"I have good reason to believe that conditions of detention are deliberately made harsher for those convicted on political grounds, by placing them in disciplinary cells for minor breaches of prison rules", she said.

Human rights defenders face constant persecution, she added, and more than 1,600 "undesirable organisations have been forcibly dissolved, including all remaining independent trade unions".

"This illustrates a deliberate policy by the state to purge civic space of its last dissident elements", she continued.

Marin also claimed that the independent media had been branded "extremist organisations", while academic freedom was being "systematically attacked".

"Ideological control and disciplinary measures restrict freedom of opinion and expression", she denounced.

Primary and secondary education are also subject to "ideological control", with children "discouraged from expressing their own opinions" and subjected to "threats and consequences" for dissenting views.

Belarus was immediately offered the floor at the Human Rights Council to respond, but no representative was present.

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