A group of UN independent human rights experts have called on Belarus to release prominent opposition leader Maria Kalesnikava, voicing serious concern over targeting and persecution of opposition politicians by the State #World #NEWS

Channel 1 Los Angeles

9/25/2020 NY

The experts also called on the authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the enforced disappearance of Ms. Kalesnikava, who, they said was “snatched off the streets” of the capital, Minsk, threatened with death or deportation, and then secretly imprisoned. 

“It is particularly troubling that the authorities have resorted to enforced disappearances in an effort to quash protests, stifle dissent and sow fear,” said the rights experts.  

“We urge the authorities not to use national security concerns to deny individuals their fundamental rights, among others the rights to opinion, expression, of peaceful assembly and association.” 

Ms. Kalesnikava, a musician and political activist. campaigned for an opposition candidate, later forced to leave the country, ahead of the 9 August presidential election which is widely considered to have been rigged.

As protests swept the country, she was elected to the seven-person leadership of the self-styled Coordination Council, a body established to overcome the ongoing political crisis through negotiations. Most of its leaders have been arrested, deported or fled the country, according to the news release. 

Ms. Kalesnikava was abducted on 7 September by a group of masked men presumed to be security agents. She was driven to the border the next day, where she was told she would be deported “alive or in bits”. However, she reportedly managed to thwart deportation by ripping up her passport. 

She then disappeared for three days with no information on her whereabouts or state of health. On 10 September, authorities said she was held in pre-trial detention in Minsk, and on 16 September, she was officially charged with undermining national security, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. 

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