Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has called on the leaders of the European Commission and the European Council to hold a special European Union summit on Belarus, the cabinet said on Monday.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko won a landslide re-election victory, the central election commission said after bloody clashes between riot police and thousands of protesters who said the poll was rigged.
Opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanouskaya said she refused to recognise the official results.
Poland’s ministry of foreign affairs condemned the violence and appealed to the Belarusian authorities “to stop escalating the situation and to start respecting fundamental human rights”.
“In the face of the ongoing events in Belarus, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its deep concern about the brutal pacification of post-election demonstrations.
“The harsh reaction, the use of force against peaceful protesters, and arbitrary arrests are unacceptable,” it said in a statement.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Felix Ajide (NAN)
UN urges Belarus to grant entry to UN rights expert
Belarus should grant free access to specialised UN experts to monitor human rights issues, including prisons, the UN Human Rights Council urges in a resolution.
In addition to demanding entry for UN Belarus monitor Anais Marin, the Human Rights Council also calls on Belarus to stop using violence, torture and arrests to quash civil rights.
The resolution, which was initiated by European countries says Belarus authorities should start a dialogue with the opposition and civil society.
The resolution was adopted with 23 yes votes, two no votes from Eritrea and Venezuela, and 22 abstentions.
Similarly, Belarusian opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, appealed to the UN on Friday for an international monitoring mission to be sent to Belarus to document an ongoing violent police crackdown on her supporters.
“The scope and the brutality of the extensive force used by the regime is in clear violation of all international norms and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN,” Tikhanovskaya said in an address to the UN Human Rights Council.
At least 7,000 protesters have been detained in Belarus since a disputed presidential election more than a month ago.
The UN has received 450 reports of torture and other abuse of detainees.
President Alexander Lukashenko, 66, has led Belarus, a former Soviet republic between Russia and EU member state Poland, for more than a quarter-century, tolerating little dissent.
Tikhanovskaya placed second in the Aug. 9 election, according to the disputed official tally.
She says she won and has demanded a new election. There have been protests in Belarus every day since the vote.
“We demand … an international monitoring mission to document the regime’s atrocities,” Tikhanovskaya, 38, told a special meeting of the UN council via video link.
She dismissed the Belarusian leadership’s allegations that, by seeking to intervene in Belarus’ post-election crisis, foreign powers have been meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
“It is very important to recognise that standing up for democratic principles and human rights is not interfering in internal affairs.
“It is a universal question of human dignity,” Tikhanovskaya said.
The UN Human Rights Council held the urgent debate in spite diplomats from Belarus and its close allies trying to prevent reports on violations from being presented at the meeting in Geneva.
“It is vital for the future of Belarus to break these cycles of increasing repression and violence,” Deputy UN Rights Chief Nada al-Nashif said.
“Civil society is a valuable partner, not a threat,” she added.
After al-Nashif’s speech, envoys from Belarus, Russia, Venezuela and China raised a long series of points of order to complain that the UN official had been allowed to speak, and to stop additional reports from a UN rights investigator and from Belarusian civil society representatives.
The Austrian diplomat, who presides over the Human Rights Council, Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, finally issued a ruling to stop these interventions.
Belarusian Ambassador Yury Ambrazevic rejected all accusations voiced in the council, which heard video messages from the foreign ministers of Denmark, Slovakia, Poland, the Netherlands and Ukraine.
“We believe it is not acceptable to use this body here to interfere in the election in any individual country,” Ambrazevic said.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Ifeyinwa Omowole
UN investigator on Belarus warns of another ‘iron curtain’
A UN investigator, on Friday, warned of the possibility of another “iron curtain” descending in Europe during an urgent debate on the human rights situation in Belarus in Geneva.
“Let’s not allow another iron curtain to descend on the European continent,’’ said Anaïs Marin, UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus.
Marin, however, described it as a “catastrophic” situation in the country.
Her speech was interrupted several times by objections from other UN members including Russian, Belarusian and other delegations who called for the broadcast to stop.
The Iron Curtain was initially a non-physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991.
The term symbolises the efforts by the Soviet Union (USSR) to block itself and its satellite states from open contact with the West and its allied states.
On the east side of the Iron Curtain were the countries that were connected to or influenced by the Soviet Union, while on the west side were the countries that were NATO members or nominally neutral.
Separate international economic and military alliances were developed on each side of the Iron Curtain.
It later became a term for the 7,000-kilometre-long (4,300 miles) physical barrier of fences, walls, minefields and watchtowers that divided the “east” and “west”.
The Berlin Wall was also part of this physical barrier.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Abdulfatah Babatunde
Tensions in Polish governing majority as lawmakers defy ruling party
The fault lines between Poland’s governing Law and Justice party (PiS) and its close allies were laid bare on Friday when several dozen lawmakers failed to support draft legislation.
Almost 40 lawmakers defied PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and voted against a bill that would liquidate farms which breed animals for fur, and would introduce a broad range of provisions to improve animal welfare.
Another 15 lawmakers abstained.
The legislation is believed to be important to Kaczynski, a known cat-lover, who also wants to open his socially conservative party to younger voters.
However, factions within the party criticised the bill, citing the economic impact on farmers, where PiS has a strong following.
Eventually the bill was adopted by the lower house thanks to the support of opposition lawmakers.
PiS has been embroiled in an internal power struggle in recent weeks over a prospective cabinet reshuffle.
This infighting provoked factions within the party to openly criticize Kaczynski and his political protege, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
This criticism came primarily from United Poland (Solidarna Polska), a PiS satellite party, which appeals to more conservative voters.
A number of recent initiatives, including a plan to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention on violence against women and anti-LGBT rhetoric can be attributed to United Poland politicians.
According to senior PiS members, the government reshuffle talks have now been suspended.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Sadiya Hamza
Fed Cup to be renamed Billie Jean King Cup
Almost 60 years after Billie Jean King helped the United States win the inaugural Fed Cup, the team event is being renamed in honour of the greatest trailblazer in women’s tennis.
The competition will from 2021 be known as the Billie Jean King Cup, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said in a statement.
It was revamped this year to feature a 12-nation finals week to rival the men’s Davis Cup.
This year’s finals, scheduled for Budapest in April, were postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
King, a 12-times Grand Slam singles champion and the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), said she was “humbled” to have the competition named after her.
“Very proud, very humbled,” the 76-year-old told Reuters by telephone. “I keep thinking it’s a dream. And then I start thinking about what an opportunity this is to help the game grow globally.
“(The Federation Cup) was 63 years behind the Davis Cup but we’ve gone from 16 to 116 nations.
“We have equal prize money to the Davis Cup and this sends out an important and strong message of equality.”
The Billie Jean Cup, sponsored by BNP Paribas, is the first major global team competition to be named after a woman.
Next year’s Finals in Hungary will boast 12 million dollars in prize money, equivalent to the revamped Davis Cup.
ITF President David Haggerty paid tribute to King’s fight for gender equality in sports and society.
“From playing the first Fed Cup as a member of the victorious United States team in 1963, founding the WTA and becoming its first president, to being the first female athlete awarded the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, Billie Jean King has never stopped breaking new ground,” Haggerty said.
“Today she adds another `first’ to that list. The new name is a fitting tribute to everything she has achieved.”
King was part of the team that won the inaugural competition, then known as the Federation Cup, in London in 1963.
She won it seven times as a player and four as captain and was appointed its first Global Ambassador last year.
“There is nothing quite like the feeling of representing your country and being part of a team, which is why this competition is so special and important to me,” she said.
“Our job is to share this vision with future generations of young girls, because if you can see it, you can be it.”
France, Russia, Hungary, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, the United States, Spain, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland will contest next year’s inaugural Billy Jean King Cup Finals.
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)