Escalating police violence in Belarus unacceptable, says OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President, urging investigations
COPENHAGEN, 16 November 2020 – With widespread protests ongoing in Belarus for more than 100 days, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President George Tsereteli reacted to increasing reports of excessive and disproportionate force by law enforcement. Police have reportedly used flash grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas, the President noted, and more than 1,200 people were detained on Sunday after demonstrations commemorating the death of protester Raman Bandarenka, a 31-year old activist who died in a hospital last week after reportedly being beaten by security forces.
“I have been deeply troubled by the intensified violence in Belarus in recent days, with reports of several deaths among protesters. Unfortunately, despite well-documented cases of human rights violations against peaceful protesters, not a single criminal case has been opened. Authorities must investigate abuses and take action to ensure that human rights violators are held accountable,” President Tsereteli said.
The President noted that despite the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of the demonstrations, prosecutions of protesters continue, with more than 900 ongoing criminal cases, and that lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists face pressure and intimidation.
“Since the election in August, thousands of protesters have been arbitrarily detained and have faced not only disproportionate fines but also violence at the hands of police,” Tsereteli said. “I call on the authorities in Minsk to respect international commitments on human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
He expressed particular concern over the deployment of police forces over the weekend to destroy a memorial set up to honor the death of Raman Bandarenka, and offered condolences to Banderenka’s family.
Protests have been ongoing in Belarus following the disputed 9 August presidential election. On 23 September, Tsereteli and Secretary General Roberto Montella held a web meeting with Belarusian Head of Delegation Andrei Savinykh, Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and OSCE PA Bureau members, which focused on promoting dialogue. The PA has been in regular contact with both sides and has consistently called for civilized negotiations.