The Belarusian dictatorship sentenced two journalists from a news site to 12 years in prison

Marina Zolotova, editor-in-chief of the independent news website REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko/File Photo (VASILY FEDOSENKO/)

A court of Belarus regime sentenced this Friday to 12 years in prison two directors of the independent news portal Tut.bywhich was closed after the historic demonstrations against the dictator Alexander Lukashenkoreported an NGO.

“The former editor-in-chief of the portal, Marina Zolotovaand the former CEO Lyudmila Chekina they were sentenced to 12 years in prison,” announced the human rights organization Viasna, after a trial behind closed doors.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Office for Human Rights published today a report on the situation in belarus which accuses the regime presided over for almost 30 years by Alexander Lukashenko of “crimes against humanity”.

The human rights violations collected by the report, which include arbitrary detentions, torture and sexual violence to detainees, “are part of a campaign of violence and repression intentionally directed against opponents of the Government or people who express critical opinions,” says the text presented today.

Coinciding with the publication of the report, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turkcalled for an end to this “systematic repression” and the release of those convicted for political motivations, which according to his office number at least 1,462 today.

The report was carried out with interviews with 207 victims and witnesses, and without the collaboration of the Belarusian authorities, who do not allow the entry of investigators from the United Nations office, said the spokeswoman for this institution Elizabeth Throssell at a press conference.

It also includes numerous violations of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in a country where “civic space is almost completely destroyed,” High Commissioner Türk said in a statement.

In this sense, the document recalls that the authorities of the European country have closed 797 NGOs, while almost all the rest (about 400) interrupted their activity for fear of legal action against them.

Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.  Sputnik/Vladimir Astapkovich/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY./File Photo
Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Sputnik/Vladimir Astapkovich/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY./File Photo (SPUTNIK/)

The majority of the independent media did the same after some of them were accused of being “extremists”, and the media has also abandoned its activities. Belarusian Association of Journaliststhe report states.

The document urges United Nations member states to consider principles of universal jurisdiction to seek accountability for those responsible for multiple human rights violations in Belarus.

In that country, “the terrible practice of persecuting and punishing individuals for carrying out legitimate work in defense of human rights continues,” Türk said, recalling the recent conviction of the opposition leader in exile Svetlana Tijanóvskaya and the activist and Nobel Peace Prize Alés Bialiatski.

The report, prepared by mandate of the UN Human Rights Councilfocuses on abuses perpetrated between May 2020 (the year of massive protests over alleged electoral fraud in the August presidential elections) and December 2022.

The document stresses that the violent repression of protesters in 2020 “was approved at the highest level by the Government, which coordinated and openly incited it”, a disproportionate use of force that caused at least five deaths, although “the real figure could be much older.”

The report documents more than a hundred cases of sexual and gender violence against detainees, another figure that could be lower than the real one, acknowledges the text, for fear of the victims of suffering stigma and reprisals if they file complaints against the abuses.

The United Nations Office adds that the Belarusian judicial system has been systematically used “against opposition personalities, bloggers, journalists, human rights defenders, trade union leaders and lawyers.”

This facilitates practices such as trials in the absence of the accused (in the case of the aforementioned opposition leader in exile), the requisition of opponents’ properties or the withdrawal of nationality, while “the scope of the application of the penalty has been extended of death”, warns the UN Office.

(With information from AFP and EFE)

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