UN human rights chief urges Belarus to release peaceful protesters
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Date: 17 July 2020
At the end of a week which has seen further mass arrests during demonstrations in Belarus, we call on the authorities to ensure full respect for the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and of association.
According to information from various NGO and media sources, over 300 people, including a dozen journalists covering the protests, were detained by police during protests on 14 and 15 July.
The demonstrations in Minsk and several other towns followed the refusal of the electoral commission to register two opposition candidates for the presidential election, which is due on 9 August.
Since the end of May, several hundred people, including human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers, as well as passers-by, have been arrested during peaceful gatherings across the country, often by riot police using unnecessary or excessive force. Demonstrators have been calling for free and fair elections.
Belarus has the duty to facilitate peaceful assemblies and to uphold the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including by those who may be expressing dissenting views and support for opposition candidates. In addition, journalists wanting to cover the protests should not be prevented or obstructed in their work, and subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, given the important role they play in imparting information on matters of public interest and thus the right to access such information.
We call for all those detained simply for exercising their human rights who are still in detention to be released, and for fair trial and due process guarantees to be met in relation to any criminal or administrative proceedings that may be instituted against them.
We remind the authorities that undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and of association may undermine the credibility of the upcoming electoral process.