UN rights chief says wants access to Belarus

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The UN's rights chief Navi Pillay on Tuesday called on Belarus to release all political opponents, and to allow her offices to visit the country to assess the human rights situation there.

In a report on the situation in Belarus, the head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on Minsk to "immediately and unconditionally release all political opponents, activists and journalists, who were not involved in any violence."

She also said that "in order for OHCHR to directly and objectively assess the human rights situation, and engage in a constructive dialogue with the Government, I request the authorities to accept an OHCHR mission to Belarus."

In June, the UN Human Rights Council condemned Belarus' crackdown on the opposition and asked Pillay to monitor and issue a preliminary report on the rights situation in the country in September.

In her report, she expressed concerns about "a pattern of violations in the human rights situation in Belarus following the December 19 2010 presidential elections."

President Alexander Lukashenko won the elections with a landslide victory which has been condemned as unfair by European observers.

Since the disputed polls, the government has cracked down on protestors and imprisoned several opposition leaders.

In her report, "significant segments" of which come from secondary sources, Pillay lists a number of rights abuses that occurred since the elections.

"Particular concerns relate to rights to freedoms of association, assembly, conscience, speech, and right to a fair trial," she said.

"Serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment in custody, impunity of perpetrators, violations of due judicial process, lack of independence of judges and pressure on defence lawyers require on-site investigation," she said.

She called on Belarus authorities to investigate rights abuses and bring those responsible to justice.

© 2011 AFP

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