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29 March 2006

The following statement was issued today by 7 independent human rights experts of the United Nations:

We express our serious concern over the deterioration of the human rights situation before, during and after the recent presidential election in Belarus. Specifically, we are alarmed at the large number of violations of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, fair trial, physical and mental integrity and to liberty.

Despite numerous appeals made by United Nations Special Rapporteurs to cease human rights violations immediately, in particular to stop politically motivated arrests and detentions of independent journalists, opposition candidates, their supporters, and human rights defenders, we note with regret that once again peaceful public demonstrations held on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 March, were violently repressed by the Belarusian police. On Saturday, the police used teargas and mock grenades to disperse the crowd. The police violently clubbed and arrested numerous demonstrators.

We have received reports that, to date, at least 1000 protesters, including numerous Belarusian and foreign journalists, are being held in detention in Minsk and the Minsk district. In most cases, family members are unaware of their whereabouts. Over 150 people were reportedly already summarily tried without access to a defense lawyer and more people are expected to have similar trials in the coming days. Concerns are expressed regarding respect for their right to a fair trial.

We call on the Government of Belarus to immediately provide us with the names of the persons detained in connection with the above events, their location, as well as the charges they face. The Special Rapporteurs also call for an independent, prompt and transparent investigation into all allegations of serious human rights violations.

The Independent Experts are:

- Adrian Severin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Belarus
- Ambeyi Ligabo, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
- Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
- Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders,
- Leïla Zerrougui, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
- Stephen J. Toope, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
- Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers