Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Members of the European Parliament called for sanctions to be imposed against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, while nearly 30 nations including the United States condemned his government's use of Internet shutdowns to stifle ongoing protests against his rule.
In the European Parliament, lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to reject the Aug. 9 re-election of Lukashenko, condemning it in a resolution as a "flagrant violation of all internationally recognized standards."
Lukashenko's term ends on Nov. 5, and the resolution, which was passed by a vote of 574 in favor, 37 against and 82 abstaining, will see the European Parliament no longer recognize his presidency past that point.
The resolution calls for EU sanctions against Lukashenko and others responsible for falsifying the election results and for the violent repression of protesters who took to the streets of Belarus following the announcement he had won a sixth term in office.
Belarus' Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the resolution, accusing EU lawmakers of not understanding the ongoing situation.
"We are disappointed by the failure of the European Parliament that poses itself as a serious, objective and democratic organization to find enough political will to see farther than the end of its noise, to overcome unilateralism and not to succumb to common cliches," it said in a statement reported by Belarus' state-owned Belta news agency.
The ministry called the resolution "aggressive" and lacking "a single constructive or sensible point," and claimed that the call for sanctions was detrimental to the interests of Europe.
"It is clear that the MEPs, unlike businesses and ordinary people, will not face the consequences, therefore they easily play with these things," the statement said. "However, history will judge them."
The capital of Minsk has been the site of mass demonstrations against the election results as protesters contend opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who officially received some 10% of cast ballots, actually won the presidency.
Activists and rights organizations have accused Lukashenko of using oppressive tactics to squelch otherwise peaceful demonstrations by detaining thousands of people. Authorities have also been accused of kidnapping opposition activist Maria Kolesnikova -- who has since been charged for undermining national security -- and attempting to force her into Ukraine.
"There has been an outpouring of graphic images and compelling testimonies of the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters by police, widespread torture or other ill-treatment of detainees and fabrication of criminal charges against leading activists, including most recently Maria Kolesnikova," Amnesty International said in a statement.
Belarusian authorities have also been accused of censoring the Internet or outright shutting it down since the protests began.
Human Rights Watch, a human rights monitor based in New York City, said Internet access in the country has been interfered with and online content restricted in an attempt to silence information about protests and police brutality.
On Thursday, the United States, Canada, Britain and 26 other Western countries issued a statement condemning the partial and complete Internet shutdowns as well as content blocking by the Belarusian government.
"We will continue to stand with the people of Belarus, who are making their voices heard in spite of these oppressive measures," they said in a statement. "We call on Belarusian authorities to refrain from Internet shutdowns and blocking or filtering of services and to respect Belarus' international human rights obligations... We call on the government of Belarus to respect civic space, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedom, democracy and the rule of law."
Seventeen member states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe also launched an independent investigation on Thursday into the reports of human rights violations.
"Basically, the mission is to hold the Belarussian authorities accountable for their gross violations of the right of the Belarusian people to free and fair elections, fundamental freedoms and a well-functioning rule of law," Jeppe Kofod, Denmark's foreign minister, said in a statement.