UN rights boss condemns Belarus crackdown, 'massive arrests'

Michelle Bachelet’s remarks come as hundreds of women in Minsk protest against post-election violent clampdown.

The United Nations human rights chief has condemned a violent crackdown by Belarusian authorities against peaceful protests after longtime President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in an election his opponents say was rigged.

Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday police were reported to have used excessive force as they clashed with demonstrators for three consecutive nights, firing rubber bullets, using water cannon and throwing stun grenades while carrying out thousands of arrests.

“I remind the Belarusian authorities that the use of force during protests should always be exceptional and a measure of last resort, clearly differentiating between any violent individuals and peaceful protesters, against whom force should not be used,” Bachelet said in a statement.

Bachelet also voiced concern at the intermittent internet shutdowns since Sunday, as well as the blocking of many social media platforms, saying it amounted to a severe curtailment of the right to freedom of expression.

Riot police have also targeted press photographers, pulling out memory cards and breaking cameras.

“Free flow of information is crucial in any democratic society, and especially in a context of crisis and social unrest,” said Bachelet.

“But even more so, in the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and where people might feel compelled to express dissent online rather than on the streets. The right to peacefully protest online must be also protected.”

Source: Read Full Article