UN has reiterated its concern about the situation in Belarus; Lithuanian policemen are shocked by the torture of Belarusians; new names have been added to the Belarusian list of “terrorists”; the national flag will not be recognized as an item of historical and cultural heritage
15 February 2021 | Voice of Belarus
UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus: the current situation is worrying and stressful
In an interview with Euroradio the UN Special Rapporteur for Belarus, Anaïs Marin noted that the UN was extremely interested in what is happening in Belarus and that the human rights situation was of particular concern. The review of the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on the situation with human rights in Belarus is scheduled for 25 February. Ms. Marin noted that since the beginning of May 2020 the Human Rights Committee had recorded 40 cases of human rights violations in Belarus and about 200 other complaints submitted by Belarusians are pending review. Most of the complaints concern violations of the right to freedom of opinion and freedom of peaceful assembly. This is the largest number of complaints as compared with any other country. The Special Rapporteur considers the arrests and criminal prosecution of innocent people, especially journalists, to be an example of lawlessness and cynicism. The current situation in the country is a source of worry and stress for her, just like for many Belarusians. According to Ms. Marin, holding new elections under the old electoral system is pointless, and, consequently, what is needed is fundamental reform. International institutions should assist Belarus in that but the Belarusian leaders should be willing to cooperate in carrying out the necessary reforms.
Lithuanian policemen are shocked by the stories of the victims of torture in Belarus
Not a single criminal investigation of violence and torture against civilians has been opened in Belarus since the start of the protests. At the same time, according to official data, the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus received about 1,800 such complaints. Some of the victims turned to law enforcement agencies of the EU countries with statements about crimes perpetrated by Belarusian security forces within the framework of universal jurisdiction. Lithuania was the first country to launch this kind of investigation. Among those who have filed torture complaints is a Lithuanian citizen of Belarusian origin, Maria Matusevich, who was detained for participating in a peaceful rally. Lithuanian police officers were shocked by her testimony about beatings and torture of her and other detainees. To date, five cases are being investigated in Lithuania and 11 cases are being processed for referral to the Prosecutor’s Office of Poland. The first complaint about torture by riot police was submitted to the Central Office for Combating Organized Crime of the Czech Republic on 7 February.
Ministry of Culture responds to the petition regarding the white-red-white flag
Over 103,000 people signed the petition in defense of the white-red-white flag and sent it to the Ministry of Culture, the Prosecutor General’s Office, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus after the authorities wanted to designate this flag as extremist. The petition contained demands to recognize the national flag as an item of historical and cultural value and to stop persecuting Belarusians for this symbol. The Ministry of Culture refused to recognize the white-red-white flag as a symbol of historic and cultural value of the Republic of Belarus. In its refusal the Ministry of Culture refers to the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage which does not include flags on its list of intangible cultural heritage. The rest of the issues specified in the petition are not within the scope of the Ministry of Culture. Let us recall that the white-red-white flag was the state flag from 1991 to 1995, and the “Pursuit” [Pogonya] coat of arms often depicted on it was included on the State List of Historical and Cultural Valuables of the Republic of Belarus in 2010. The combination of white and red colors has been used in folk ornaments for centuries. In the 19th century Belarusians with red and white ribbons participated in Kalinouski’s uprising for their independence.
The Belarus KGB has added 17 people to the terrorist list
The Belarus State Security Committee (KGB) included 17 citizens of the republic on the list of individuals involved in terrorist activities. The “terrorist list” includes 5 women and 12 men. All Belarusians added to the KGB’s updated list have been charged under Art. 289 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (“Act of Terrorism”) punishable by prison terms ranging 8 years to life or by death. They refer to the so-called Autukhovich and Alinevich groups (anarchists) accused of setting fire to a police station and houses of police officers and bombing their cars. In December 2020 Lukashenko stated that the members of a terrorist group detained in Belarus led by Mikalai Autukhovich had been importing “tons of weapons” into the country via Ukraine. According to him, they were planning terrorist attacks throughout the republic and have already begun to carry them out. There has not been a single victim at the hands of these “terrorists” as of today. Nevertheless, the propaganda is trying to intimidate the population of Belarus in every possible way. Earlier, two more Belarusians, Stsiapan Putsila and Raman Pratasevich, had been added to the “terrorist list”. They are the creators of NEXTA, the most popular telegram channel in Belarus, designated as extremist in Belarus.
For more information on the events of 15 February 2021, please visit Infocenter Free Belarus 2020: