MOSCOW, March 14 (UPI) -- Human Rights Watch said it was time the United Nations step in to investigate alleged ongoing political repression at the hands of the Belarusian government.
"For well over a decade the Belarusian government has steadily tightened its grip on civil society," said Anna Sevortian, Russia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement. "Now, the new wave of persecution is a crisis that requires a strong U.N. response."
The U.S. government joined the European Union in hitting Belarusian leaders with sanctions in response to "fraudulent" presidential elections in December.
Washington said the "disproportionate" use of force by Minsk against opposition candidates was a "major" step in the wrong direction for the former Soviet republic.
The post-election period that brought another term for Alexander Lukashenko, the first and only president of an independent Belarus, was marred by widespread unrest that saw six presidential candidates and at least 600 anti-government protesters placed in detention.
The rights group called on Minsk to investigate the December responses, free those not linked to violence and make sure its justice system was transparent.
"The government has created a serious human rights crisis in Belarus, and the U.N. Human Rights Council should not remain silent about it," said Sevortian.