Belarus opposition challenger to address UN Security Council

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The main opposition challenger in Belarus’ disputed presidential election, which has triggered mass protests, will address an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

Estonia’s U.N. ambassador, Sven Jurgenson, said Tuesday that Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled to Lithuania under pressure from Belarus authorities, will speak to the U.N.’s most powerful body at a meeting focusing on attacks on human rights in the former Soviet nation.

Belarus’ opposition has called the Aug. 9 election that gave Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term as president rigged. The United States and European Union have criticized the vote it as neither free nor fair and urged Belarusian authorities to begin a dialogue with the opposition.

Lukashenko, who has run the nation of 9.5 million people with an iron fist for 26 years, has dismissed opposition protesters as Western puppets and is pursuing a tough response to demonstrators. Over the weekend, he cracked down on independent media and his government has been jailing activists.

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Jürgenson, whose country is serving a two-year term on the Security Council, said the expulsion of independent foreign media and revocation of accreditation for independent journalists in Belarus “confirms the importance of sharing information about what is happening in Belarus.”

“For Estonia, standing up for human rights is also a priority in foreign policy, which is why we consider it important to provide an arena for those whose voices are being suppressed,” he said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Jürgenson said the Security Council has stated that severe human rights violations are an early warning of conflicts with international implications and that “repression could amount to threats to international peace and security.”

“Prevention of violent conflict and mass atrocities is the council´s key responsibility, thus early warning and awareness raising are necessary,” he said.

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