Human rights group warns about ‘appalling violence’ against Belarus protesters

Riot police in Belarus are using “appalling violence” toward protesters demonstrating against the results of the country’s presidential election, the human rights group Amnesty International said Monday.

Delegates of the human rights group said they witnessed firsthand police using indiscriminate force, including stun grenades, against peaceful protesters who had come out Sunday night opposing exit polls announcing the victory of incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko, often labeled “Europe’s last dictator.”

“Last night Amnesty International delegates witnessed first-hand the viciousness of the police response, which included indiscriminate use of force, including stun grenades, against a peaceful crowd, and arbitrary arrests of individuals who were far from any protest,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s regional director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Struthers added that a video circulating online showed a police van running over a protester at full speed on a wide road.

“This footage captures the blood-chilling ruthlessness of the Belarusian police’s actions last night, and shows why so many in Belarus are desperate for change,” Struthers said.

The Minsk-based human rights group Vyasna Human Rights Center said that at least one protester was killed among the violence and dozens injured, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported

The government’s Interior Ministry denied that anyone was killed.

“We do not have any fatal casualties,” Interior Ministry spokeswoman Volha Chamadanava told RFE/RL.

Protesters took to the streets across Belarus on Sunday opposing election results that gave Lukashenko, who has been in power for nearly a quarter of a century, a wide margin of victory over his challengers with 80 percent share of the votes.

This includes Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who rose from obscurity to prominence in the presidential race after taking over for her candidate-husband who was jailed ahead of the elections, Reuters reported

Tikhanouskaya was reported to receive just 9.9 percent of the votes, a figure the opposition has rejected, and called for a “peaceful” handover of power.

“The authorities are not listening to us. The authorities need to think about peaceful ways to hand over power,” Tikhanouskaya said, according to Reuters.

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, called for authorities to refrain from violence and “to honestly report detailed election results from all polling stations,” according to a statement released Monday.

The European Union also denounced violence used against peaceful protesters, echoed concerns over the reported protester death and called for the immediate release of all peoples detained Sunday night.

“The election night was marred with disproportionate and unacceptable state violence against peaceful protesters,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell said in a statement Monday. “Only upholding human rights, democracy, and free and fair elections will guarantee stability and sovereignty in Belarus. We will continue to closely follow the developments in order to assess how to further shape the EU’s response and relations with Belarus in view of the developing situation.”

Tags Alexander Lukashenko Belarus

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