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"Belarus in Progress"

Theses of the speech of the Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus Mr. Pavel Latushka at the screening of the film "Belarus in Progress" dedicated to the mass violence against citizens of Belarus and the problem of universal jurisdiction in the EU countries

Free Belarus Museum

15 December 2022

What image comes to your mind when you hear the word Belarus?

I don’t want to be a prisoner of stereotypes, but I always imagined a kind young girl with blond hair in a national costume.

She lives in the same house as you. Some are neighbours in the stairwell and some on different floors, but everyone knows that she and her children have been abused and tortured every day for 2.5 years.

Yes, the neighbours expressed sympathy and concern and helped her in any way they could.

But after she got help, she was subjected to more beatings.

And when the abuser realised that he could continue to do whatever he wanted to her, even worse things happened. Another image of a beautiful girl, but already in a different national costume simply wanted to kill and almost did.

Here I am talking about Ukraine.

I am convinced that the war in Ukraine would not have been possible if the Lukashenko regime had not held out.

By turning a blind eye to a little violence, by pretending that we do not hear the cries of pain of those suffering — even more and terrible violence and injustice becomes possible.

I am making this parallel for a reason. You can name the number of political prisoners, the numbers that have gone through prisons and detention, torture and humiliation, but this is the data we pass on in all the meetings we have with European politicians and diplomats.

But when these numbers are on paper they look like statistics. But a person’s life is not a statistical error.

Everyone who has survived torture, humiliation and violence has been traumatised for life. But the victims do not want revenge. Here in Europe, they want those values, on the basis of which European civilization emerged — humanism, law, they just want to be fulfilled. Not in words, but in actions.

Believe me, the film crew has not set itself the task of horrifying you once again with the atrocities of the regime’s henchmen, which they committed in August 1920 and are still committing today.

It is at this very moment in Belarus that someone is detained, arrested, imprisoned, beaten or held in a torture chamber.

This film is the story of three victims who suffered torture, are forced to rebuild their lives abroad, but continue to live and fight for justice and fairness through the mechanisms of universal jurisdiction.

Imagine what these people have been through.

40 people in four-bed cells measuring eight square metres. Sleeping, or rather just passing out — lying flat on the floor, on a table, on metal bunks without a mattress.

Two litres of water for everyone. No food. And pain, pain and more pain. Physical and moral.

Those people who have survived this pain want only one thing — punishment for those responsible. And if to put it simply — justice. In our native Belarus it was destroyed, just like the civil society. By the decision of the dictator and his henchmen. But the Belarusians believe that justice still remains here — in Europe.

I have no doubt that those who came to the screening today understand the importance of justice for us. Each of you is able to convey to your capitals (and here I am addressing the representatives of the foreign diplomatic corps) the message that torture cases must be dealt with qualitatively and fully, without formalism, within the instrument of universal jurisdiction and to declare suspects wanted based on the UN Convention against Torture and national legislation.

To publish the names is the first step towards justice. It is up to you to do it.

This tool is no longer in our hands, but in yours.

Today, Europe, together with the Belarusan people, is being tested: we are being tested for our ability to achieve democratic changes despite the mass terror and violence against our people, while Europe is being tested for its ability to use law, its national instruments to show Belarusians that European values do not exist only on paper.

And these are not inflated expectations of us. Inform your justice ministers and procurators general.

I understand that Belarusians are not citizens of your countries, but Belarusians are Europeans, just like you.

Small, but essential additions:

In the nearest future hundreds of Belarusians living abroad will be sentenced to years of imprisonment in absentia, and afterwards (the law has been already adopted) they will be deprived of their citizenship. This practice has already been used in history during the Nazi Germany.

In 2023, there could be thousands of stateless persons illegally deprived of their citizenship by an illegitimate, non-recognised by the EU and the Belarusian people regime.

Friends, on the eve of the good cheerful holidays, I ask you to help a small miracle to happen. In such hard and dark times, it will give hope to that girl I was talking about at the beginning, that the pain and fear will end, and she will never have to suffer again.

Free, independent and happy.

Belarus deserves that.


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