Berlin, 1 November 2021 - Since the disputed presidential elections in Belarus in August 2020, thousands of citizens have demonstrated across the country, and the state security forces have reacted with extreme violence. Actual or alleged critics of the regime were arrested and mistreated en masse. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) together with the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) are now filing a criminal complaint with the Attorney General in Germany against six named, high-ranking members of the Belarusian security apparatus for crimes against humanity.
“We expect the initiation of preliminary proceedings by the Federal Prosecutor General against those responsible, as there is no foreseeable investigation into these violations of international law in Belarus itself. Those affected must be able to exercise their rights, and Germany should take a leading role in this. The securing of evidence should also bolster a European approach toward the criminal prosecution, as well as measures within the UN framework”, explains Andreas Schueller,Program Director International Crimes and Accountability, ECCHR.
The systematic repression of the Belarusian population qualifies as a crime against humanity. The criminal complaint summarizes information regarding the crimes committed by the security authorities in Belarus since August 9, 2020, including mass detentions, torture, disappearances, sexual violence, and political persecution. Given that these are international crimes, the attacks can be prosecuted in Germany under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
”There is clear evidence that torture was used intentionally and that it was widespread and systematic, thus reaching the threshold of crimes against humanity. This was confirmed by various international investigations, including by the Moscow Mechanism of the OSCE. Our own reporting has demonstrated that Belarus has taken no action to punish these crimes, whose perpetrators enjoy 100% impunity”, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.
The Belarusian government is deliberately using violence to stop the protest movement and secure President Lukashenko's power. Belarus exemplifies what is now a worldwide phenomenon, in which authoritarian states work to restrict the public realm of civic action. The criminal complaint highlights these encroachments upon civic freedoms and sends a strong signal condemning this overall tendency. International criminal law also works globally to prosecute repression in the form of crimes against humanity and to indict those responsible.
The criminal complaint is in alignment with other legal steps taken by ECCHR to bring those responsible for crimes against humanity to justice under the principle of universal jurisdiction. Similar charges regarding human rights crimes in Syria have already culminated in an arrest warrant and the first-ever trial on Syrian state torture worldwide, currently taking place in the Koblenz Higher Regional Court.
Maria Bause, ECCHR, +49 30 69819797, firstname.lastname@example.org
Iolanda Jaquemet, OMCT, +41 79 539 41 06, email@example.com