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EU seeks urgent debate on Belarus at U.N. rights body

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

GENEVA (Reuters) - The European Union is requesting an urgent debate on Belarus at the top U.N. rights body next week, describing a “deterioration” in the situation there, a letter written by the German ambassador showed on Friday.

Western countries dispute the outcome of an Aug. 9 election which official results show President Alexander Lukashenko won, and the EU is aiming for economic sanctions.

“The ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus in relation to the 2020 presidential election needs the urgent attention of the Human Rights Council,” Germany’s Ambassador to the United Nations Michael von Ungern-Sternberg wrote to the Geneva-based council.

The ambassador, whose nation holds the EU rotating presidency, added that he would request a resolution after the debate.

He did not elaborate on the human rights issues in Belarus though others have voiced concerns about reported kidnappings and threats to opposition figures since the vote.

A schedule of the rights council showed the item would be discussed on Monday, the opening day of a three-week session held in Geneva.

Lukashenko denies rigging the election and has refused to talk to the opposition, accusing them of trying to wreck the former Soviet republic.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Friday for authorities in Belarus “to refrain from the use of force against those engaging in peaceful assembly and to ensure that allegations of torture and other mistreatment of people in detention are fully investigated and addressed.”

Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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