UN rights panel condemns Belarus on human rights

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UNITED NATIONS, Nov 22 (Reuters) A United Nations panel condemned Belarus for human rights abuses, including jailing opposition politicians, silencing independent media and rigging elections.

The resolution, which overcame an attempt by Russia to block it in the UN General Assembly's human rights committee, passed by a vote of 68-32, with 76 abstentions yesterday.

The non-binding resolution will go to the 192-member General Assembly, which generally votes the same way as the committee.

''The government seems determined to continue repressing its people, and to prevent them from realizing the freedoms and rights that citizens of other countries take for granted,'' US representative Grover Joseph Rees said in a statement.

Belarus rebuked the committee, saying all it did was to exchange statements instead of engaging in open debate.

An ex-Soviet state, Belarus is led by President Alexander Lukashenko, who was elected in July 1994. He maintains heavy state control of the economy and has suppressed dissent.

The resolution highlighted the continued use of judicial means to ''silence political opposition and human rights defenders through the use of arbitrary detention, lack of due process and closed political trials.'' The United States, which spearheaded the resolution, said it sent an important message to governments around the world.

''We don't hold only third world countries or developing countries accountable for violations of human rights, but also any country, including a European country,'' US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters.

''It sends a broad message that any country, whether you're located in the north or south, will be held accountable for your violations of human rights,'' he said.

REUTERS TB BST0445

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