The UN calls on Belarus to investigate the torture and death of political prisoners

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TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — United Nations Special Representatives for Human Rights have called on Belarusian authorities to investigate the torture and deaths of political prisoners.

Five people who died in custody in Belarus have been convicted on politically motivated charges, according to a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus.

The report noted that none of the deceased underwent an autopsy and that the fact that the prisoners died in captivity “creates a presumption of arbitrary deprivation of life by state authorities.” transparent investigation into all deaths in custody.”

The UN human rights activists said they were particularly concerned about several Belarusian opposition politicians, lawyers and activists who are currently in prison and whose whereabouts have not been known for more than a year.

According to the human rights center Viasna, there are currently 1,401 political prisoners behind bars in the country, including Nobel laureate Ales Bialiatski.

The UN report criticized conditions in Belarusian prisons, saying prisoners are subjected to “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in places of detention.”

In particular, political prisoners are singled out, the report said, because they are reportedly required to wear a special yellow mark, are often placed in solitary confinement and are cut off from communication with the outside world.

President Alexander Lukashenko led a crackdown on his critics in 2020 when he declared himself the winner of an election widely dismissed as fraudulent by the Belarusian opposition and the West. According to the UN report, authorities in Belarus have carried out a “targeted eradication” of civil society in Belarus since Lukashenko’s disputed election.

“The human rights situation in Belarus remains of grave concern” and requires continued attention, the report said.

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