An injured protester Yevgeny Zaichkin lies on the ground while receiving assistance during clashes with law enforcement officers after presidential election polls closed in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 9, 2020. Zaichkin who was reported to have died during bloody clashes with police after the presidential election told Reuters he had survived a brutal police beating and that he expected to be detained shortly. (Vasily Fedosenko/REUTERS)

Canada calls for investigation of alleged human rights violations in Belarus

Canada is joining forces with 16 other member-states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to call for an international investigation into allegations of serious human rights violations in Belarus following last month’s contested presidential election in the former Soviet republic.

The move comes as the UN’s top human rights body on Friday passed a resolution backed by the European Union seeking a parallel investigation into alleged violations by Belarusian authorities under President Alexander Lukashenko.

The Human Rights Council voted 23-2 with 22 abstentions on the resolution that calls on the UN human rights chief to look into the situation of rights in Belarus and report back by year-end. The 47-member body rejected 17 amendments that had sought to alter the language.

“Canada condemns the ongoing allegations of serious human rights violations throughout Belarus and is increasingly concerned by the targeted violence against and continued repression of peaceful protestors, opposition members, journalists and human rights defenders,” Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in a statement Thursday.

“We applaud the brave women who stood up against violence.”

People take part in a protest against the presidential election results demanding the resignation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and the release of political prisoners, in Minsk, Belarus Aug. 16, 2020. (Vasily Fedosenko/REUTERS)

Mass protests began throughout Belarus after the Aug. 9 presidential election that official results say gave the authoritarian leader a sixth term in office; opponents say the results were manipulated.

Nearly 7,000 people were detained and hundreds were brutally beaten by police during the first several days of post-election protests.

Canada and its OSCE partners have invoked the OSCE Moscow Mechanism to initiate a fact-finding mission of experts to investigate and report on allegations of human rights violations in Belarus, Champagne said.

“Canada will continue to work toward a peaceful and inclusive resolution to this crisis while holding Belarus to its OSCE commitments to human rights and democracy,” Champagne said.

Canada is also “deeply troubled” by and condemns the use of partial and complete Internet shutdowns, as well as targeted content blocking, officials at Global Affairs said.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, second right, argues with a worker of the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for the last 26 years, also announced Thursday he was putting troops on high alert and closing the country’s borders with NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

On Thursday, the European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution rejecting the official election results and saying it would not recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate president once his current term expires Nov. 5.

Canada too has said it does not recognize the results of the Aug. 9 vote.

“We do not accept the results of this fraudulent presidential election in Belarus and call for free and fair elections,” Champagne said on Aug. 17.

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