Belarus opposition leader urges international probe of govt

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Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya delivers a spech in the Senate of the Czech Republic in Prague, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Vondrous Roman/CTK Pool Photo via AP)

PRAGUE – A Belarusian opposition leader called Wednesday for the creation of an international tribunal to investigate and prosecute crimes reportedly committed by her country's government and its longtime authoritarian leader, President Alexander Lukashenko.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate in Belarus' disputed presidential election last year, spoke to the Czech Republic's Senate in Prague. She asked the Czech Republic to organize an international conference to deal with the current situation in her country.

“We cannot allow dictators to write history,” Tsikhanouskaya said.

Lukashenko has faced months of protests fueled by his reelection to a sixth term in the August election, which was widely seen as rigged. Belarusian authorities have responded to demonstrations with a fierce crackdown. Police have arrested more than 35,000 people, and thousands of protesters were beaten by officers.

Tsikhanouskaya called the crackdown “a terror that our country has not experienced since the time of Stalinism.”

"The only solution to the crisis in Belarus can be free elections,” she said.

In audio testimony to the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee later Wednesday, Tsikhanouskaya said that although there were defections by law enforcement officers amid the protests in Belarus, the opposition thinks discontented officials will be useful by staying in their jobs.

“We changed the strategy a little bit, and we ask the people in the regime to stay in their places but to give us inside information,” she said.