The human rights situation in Belarus is catastrophic, and only getting worse, the United Nations special rapporteur on the country said Tuesday.
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko's regime in Minsk is deliberately purging civil society of its last dissenting voices, Anais Marin told the UN Human Rights Council.
"The situation remains catastrophic. Unfortunately, it keeps on worsening," said the special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus.
"The Belarusian government amended an already restrictive legislation aimed at dismantling civic freedoms, leading to a surge in politically-motivated prosecutions and sentencing.
"The lack of accountability for human rights violations fosters a climate of fear among victims and their families."
Marin has been in post for five years and reminded the council that she alerted them two years ago to the "totalitarian turn" taken by Minsk, evidenced by the "disregard for human life and dignity" during the crackdown on peaceful protesters in 2020.
In her annual report, the French political scientist said more than 1,500 individuals were still being detained on politically-motivated charges, with a daily average of 17 arbitrary arrests since 2020.
"I have good reasons to believe that prison conditions are deliberately made harsher for those sentenced on politically-motivated grounds, by placing them in punishment cells for petty infraction to prison rules," said Marin.
"No-one has been held accountable in Belarus for arbitrarily detaining tens of thousands of peaceful protesters in 2020, nor for the violence or torture many of them have been subjected to.
"This general impunity, and the climate of fear resulting from ongoing repression, have compelled hundreds of thousands of Belarusians into exile."
- Media, academics, schoolchildren -
Human rights defenders face ongoing persecution, she said, with more than 1,600 "undesirable organisations forcibly dissolved, including all remaining independent trade unions.
"This illustrates a deliberate state policy of purging civic space of its last dissenting elements," she said.
Marin said independent media outlets had been labelled as "extremist organisations", while academic freedom is "systematically attacked".
"Ideological control and disciplinary measures restrict freedom of opinion and their expression," she said.
Primary and secondary education is also subject to "ideological control", with children "discouraged from expressing their own opinions" and facing "threats and consequences" for holding dissenting views.
As for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, individuals face challenges when trying to speak out against it or question Belarus's role in facilitating the 2022 invasion.
"Anti-war actions led to numerous detentions and arrests, some on charges of planning terrorist attacks -- a crime which can now be punished by death," she said.
Belarus was immediately offered the Human Rights Council floor to respond, but was not present.
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