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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarus Criticized at UN Council

GENEVA -- Human rights violations in Belarus have been worsening with no sign that the government will improve its record under international pressure, a UN-appointed rights expert said.

Representatives of Belarus and Russia dismissed the report as politically biased.

"During 2006, the situation of human rights in Belarus constantly deteriorated," Adrian Severin told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, citing abuses such as imprisonment of political opponents, torture, excessive use of police force and severe restrictions on the news media.

"All my efforts to engage in constructive dialogue with the government of Belarus were fruitless," Severin said, adding that the government failed to allow him to visit the country for a third consecutive year in 2006 and has yet to respond to a request this year.

Just as the government has dismissed a barrage of international criticism in recent years, it has ignored all his previous calls to put an end to abuses, Severin said. "In fact, the political system of Belarus seems to be incompatible with the concept of human rights as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations" and in the rights treaties that Belarus has ratified, he said in a 19-page report.

Severin -- who encouraged Belarussian civil society activists to continue their work toward democratization -- called on the UN to set up a legal expert group to investigate whether the country's government was responsible for the disappearance and murders of several politicians and journalists and help to put an end to impunity.

Russia and other neighboring countries should join in travel sanctions for Belarussian officials imposed by the EU and the United States, he said in his report. At the same time, countries should condition trade with Belarus on human rights criteria, he said. "Russia could exercise a very important role in supporting any international strategy meant to improve the situation of human rights in the country," he said.

The report contained false allegations and "absurd conclusions," said Belarussian Ambassador to the UN Sergei Aleinik, calling Severin an "incompetent and politically engaged expert" who wanted to create a negative image of the country.

"The special rapporteur is misusing the human rights mandate ... to put forward a political model for interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state," he told the council.

Oleg Malginov, who heads the human rights division of the Russian Foreign Ministry, told the council that the report was politically biased and said it demonstrated why the mandates of UN rights experts on specific countries should be abolished.