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Conference «The Role of the Belarusian Judiciary in the Implementation of Political Repressions»

Conference "The Role of the Belarusian Judiciary in the Implementation of Political Repressions
Photo: The NAM-media

Approaches to the legal substantiation of the position on the complicity of judges in the implementation of crimes against humanity, as well as to develop further practical steps to prosecute this category of persons within the mechanisms of universal jurisdiction

On April 25, 2023, a conference was held in Warsaw (Foksal, 11, the Museum of Free Belarus) to systematize the approaches to the legal justification of the position of complicity of judges in crimes against humanity, as well as to work out further practical steps to bring the specified category of persons to justice within the mechanisms of universal jurisdiction.

The legal default in Belarus does not allow a significant number of Belarusians to hope for a fair investigation and fair trial on the facts of torture, violence and other crimes against humanity, which have been committed in the territory of Belarus since 2020 (and in general since 1994) up to the present time.

Lack of civil society and independent mass media, defeat of the bar and elimination of the possibility to file complaints to the UN. All this prevents the restoration of violated rights and legitimate interests of the affected persons and does not allow to secure society as a whole from further repressions.

That is why one of the main directions of the National Anti-Crisis Management was and is the legal pressure on Lukashenka's regime. This pressure has two goals: to bring the perpetrators to justice and to restore justice to the victims.

Pavel Latushka and Alexander Azarov
Pavel Latushka and Alexander Azarov Photo: The NAM-media

At present when the civil protests in Belarus are stifled and have left the streets, the main instrument of repression is judges. By issuing knowingly unjust verdicts against prominent political figures, human rights activists and activists, as well as ordinary Belarusians, judges are in fact complicit in crimes against humanity - torture, violence, illegal imprisonment, and others.

Among the participants of the event are the head of the NAM Pavel Latushka, representative of UTC, head of BYPOL Alexander Azarov, chairman of the Lithuanian Constitutional Court 2014-2021. Dainius Žalimas, a lawyer, associate professor, researcher of the Faculty of Law of Vilnius University, Katerina Latysh and others.

Pavel Latushka explained why it is important to organize such round tables: - First, you know that one of the main directions of the National Anti-Crisis Management (the NAM)is to bring to justice Lukashenka himself and representatives of the regime for crimes against humanity, for all the crimes committed by the Lukashenka regime continue to be committed every day. And here we actually build a system of actions in different directions, based on the facts of these crimes. First of all, we are talking about the fact that Lukashenko must be held responsible for the seizure of a civilian Ryanair plane, Lukashenko must be held responsible for the artificially created migration crisis on the border with the European Union. Of course, crimes against humanity are also a priority.

Lukashenka's judges will be held responsible for the crimes committed

Head of the NAM Pavel Latushka addressed a conference on «The role of the Belarusian judiciary in the implementation of political repression»

Lukashenko's regime should receive an appropriate legal assessment

Pavel Latushka

One of the key activities for the NAM team is the legal pressure on the Lukashenko regime and bringing all those responsible for crimes against humanity. We will systematically and methodically move in this direction.

All these activities to date have been focused on the direct perpetrators of crimes against humanity - representatives of the power bloc of Lukashenko's regime: the police, OMON, GUBOPIK and KGB.

One of the main activities of the NAM is to prosecute Lukashenko himself and representatives of the regime for crimes against humanity, for all the crimes that the Lukashenko regime has committed and continues to commit every day. And here we are actually building a system of actions in different directions based on the facts of these crimes.

First of all, we say that Lukashenko must bear responsibility for the seizure of a civilian Ryanair aircraft, Lukashenko must bear responsibility for the artificially created migration crisis on the border with the European Union. Also in priority, of course, are crimes against humanity. This is the violence carried out by the Lukashenko regime against Belarusians, and not only, but also against citizens of other countries. We have, for example, evidence that Polish citizens were subjected to violence on the territory of Belarus. We are also talking about the creation of special international institutions that could consider these issues comprehensively, because what I said earlier, these are national jurisdictions, they have a universal character, because such crimes can be considered within national jurisdictions, but given the fact that they threaten world standards, world security, violate human rights in the world. And accordingly, the UN convention gives us that right. But we also talk about the need to create special international institutions, and this is the resolution that was adopted by the European Parliament calling on all European Union countries to create a special international tribunal for crimes against humanity committed by the Lukashenko regime.

Pavel Latushka
Pavel Latushka Photo: The NAM-media

Such an international tribunal would be a universal instrument to bring to justice all perpetrators of crimes.The second area of international concern is what Ukraine is initiating within the UN General Assembly - the creation of a tribunal on the facts of aggression.

Under international law, according to the UN General Assembly resolution of 1974, as well as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, making a country's territory available for aggression is an act of aggression. Here the role of the Lukashenko regime should receive an appropriate legal assessment. The next direction is a new direction that has recently emerged - the issue related to the deportation of Ukrainian children to the territory of Belarus, which the regime was engaged in until 2022. But it became particularly active after the next stage of the occupation of Ukraine.

We have quite a lot of testimonies, evidence, documents, which we pass on to our Ukrainian partners, which we form into a corresponding report, and we will pass on a complex report to both Ukrainian partners and international partners, which confirm that Ukrainian children are being taken from the territory of Ukraine by decision of Lukashenko and relevant institutions and organizations of Belarus, such as, for example, the Alexei Talai Foundation and the State Enterprise "Belaruskali" with support from regional authorities, to the territory of Belarus. Some of them, of course, leave with their families and trustees, but many of them are orphans. And that's 6 to 15 years old. And here international law very clearly defines such actions as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention in relation to a particularly protected category in times of war, military conflicts - these are children. This is a violation on the part of the state. And this is the first thing for which Belarus itself can be held accountable.

However, now that civil protests in Belarus are strangled and have gone underground from the streets, the main instrument of repression are judges, who knowingly pass unjust sentences on political activists, human rights defenders, and activists.

Judges are, in fact, accomplices to crimes against humanity. People who are at the top of the professional pyramid of jurisprudence have become a disgusting tool in the hands of Lukashenka's regime, which destroys the fates and lives of worthy Belarusians and their families.

Judges in Belarus consciously and cynically commit dozens of crimes, being fully aware of their actions.

Transitional Justice in Belarus

The NAM lawyer Artsiom Praskalovich spoke at the conference «The Role of the Belarusian Judiciary in the Implementation of Political Repression»

We ask everybody who notices persons involved in political persecution of the Belarusians abroad to inform us or the local law enforcement bodies

Artsiom Praskalovich

Transitional justice is the set of processes and mechanisms associated with a society's attempts to overcome the grave legacy of large-scale violations of the rule of law in the past, in order to ensure accountability, justice and reconciliation.

As far as the Republic of Belarus is concerned, I understand we are going to have a very difficult situation on this issue, given all the examples that world history knows. But we still have to go through with it.

As a standard, these procedures include four components:

  1. Accumulation and restoration of the facts of the truth (documentation).

  2. Bringing the perpetrators to legal responsibility.

  3. Compensation of the victims (rehabilitation processes).

  4. Guarantee of non-repetition (lustration, in particular).

The implementation of transitional justice should focus on the following issues: political offenses, involvement in international conflicts, corruption, and other serious violations.

Democratic lawyers discussed the involvement of Belarusian judges in crimes against humanity
Photo: The NAM-media

Democratic lawyers discussed the involvement of Belarusian judges in crimes against humanity, and tried to develop practical steps to bring them to justice within the mechanisms of universal jurisdiction. Since the crackdown on protest activity in Belarus, judges have taken the lead in prosecuting activists. In conditions of legal default, Belarusians can not count on a fair investigation and a fair trial. Therefore, one of the main activities of democratic forces was and is legal pressure on Lukashenko's regime. This pressure has two goals: to bring the perpetrators to justice and restore justice to the victims," said the NAU lawyer Artem Praskalovich to Radio Unet.

— First of all, any Belarusian court can make a legal assessment of the judge's activity. Any conviction for extremist, terrorist crimes is absolutely inconsistent with the Constitution, whatever it is today. And any judge has an opportunity to be guided by the Constitution, not the Criminal Code. If he excludes such a possibility, he commits a crime, and the legal assessment of such actions can be made by law enforcement agencies within the country or by other judges. It is naive to hope that such a path is possible in Belarus, so we rely primarily on the mechanisms of universal jurisdiction. Some countries have made some progress on these issues. But in many countries these cases are stalled because it's impossible to identify the suspect, because the officer of GUBOPIK was wearing a mask, he hid his identity. But under each verdict there are names of judges, on the basis of which people are sent to prisons, where they are subjected to torture, violence and other crimes against humanity. Accordingly, we know who can be blamed here, and together with our partners we will promote this thesis and demand that judges be held accountable. We will help people to write relevant statements. More and more political prisoners who have served their time are coming out now, and they can become the people who can make relevant statements. In principle, such judges will become participants in the tribunal, about which there is much talk now. We are talking about a military tribunal, not only against Lukashenko, but also for crimes against humanity. For the first time in the history of independent, but so painful Belarus. The international community has appreciated Lukashenko's contribution to the torture of the Belarusian people and says that such a tribunal should be created. However, it is necessary to understand that everyone will be participants of this tribunal: Lukashenko, security officials, judges, prosecutors, investigators - all those involved in mass repressions in Belarus.

— But a tribunal and universal jurisdiction is a long time coming. And what can be done immediately to bring them to justice? Can the inclusion of judges in the sanctions lists be an effective practice?

Артём Проскалович
Артём Проскалович Фото: НАУ-медиа

— We believe this to be an effective practice. According to our data, 28 Belarusian judges are on the sanctions lists, and there may be other closed lists as well. But Valentin Sukalo, head of Lukashenka's Supreme Court, complained at a meeting that judges are under unprecedented pressure and it's difficult for them to resist. That 150 judges are on the lists. We do not know why he uses this number, whether he wants to show that everyone is hidden, or whether he has some alternative data. Lukashenko, when handing out awards to judges, says that they have stood up, endured, and that he will continue to support them. This may mean that the system should take steps to support the judiciary. If we analyze Lukashenko's decrees appointing judges and dismissing them, we can conclude that there is a lot of turnover. That those who dealt with the same political cases leave the service, because they understand the pressure there, the prospects before them. Therefore, the information and sanction pressure is doing its job today. If the Belarusians start to unite and bring cases under the universal jurisdiction, the level of this pressure will increase even more. After all, sanctions are only an impossibility to enter the country, while Interpol's international wanted list is an impossibility to leave for any country, and a constant anxiety inside Belarus, because there is no telling when the regime will need to score points in the eyes of its Western partners, and it will decide to extradite such a judge as a goodwill gesture, as a willingness to bargain in case the sanctions are lifted. And such judges can be extradited to Interpol.

— And those judges who passed political sentences and are now out of the system? Will they be able to sleep easy, or will they all be held accountable for their judgments?

— I wouldn't want to say unequivocally yes or no right now, because the Criminal Code considers the possibility of aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Every day of every official has to be evaluated for compliance with the law by special government agencies, investigators, prosecutors, you have to find out how serious crimes were committed and what circumstances the person was in at that moment, maybe their children were held hostage outside the door with a gun to their head, and what they did to minimize those consequences, like whether they reduced their sentence or improved their conditions. So everything has to be individualized. If a person makes that decision sooner or later to leave the system, they can say that they minimized the damage that they caused by their actions.

— Do you have evidence or testimony that Belarusian judges travel to the European Union?

— Only from the media we see that the judge who sentenced Sviatlana Tihanouskaya and Pavel Latushka was allegedly in Lithuania. As soon as we received this information, we promptly involved our colleagues, the relevant services in Lithuania and Poland, so to speak, to "talk" with this man, on what grounds he is there, whether he can be here. At the moment, these actions have had no result, but at least in this way we have drawn additional attention of the relevant authorities to the situation, that this could happen again, that this must be closely monitored. Judges can enter EU territory with altered documents, they can have documents for another person. That is, when people see, when people recognize someone, they should not be disappointed and just state the fact that they saw such a person. It is better to contact the law enforcement agencies of the country where such a person has been seen and contact the representatives of the democratic forces.

Lukashenko personally controls the judges

Dainius Žalimas, professor at Vilnius University and former chairman of the Constitutional Court of Lithuania, spoke at the conference «The Role of the Belarusian Judiciary in Political Repression»

Dainius Žalimas
Dainius Žalimas Photo: The NAM-media

The policy of Lukashenka's regime is directed against all those who disagree with this policy, against the civil society of Belarus, which stands for fair elections and restoration of the constitutional order. Any dissent with the regime leads to repression.

The usurping dictator controls the entire judicial system. Lukashenko appointed and continues to appoint virtually all judges.

According to UN estimates, approximately 11 thousand politically motivated criminal cases were initiated in Belarus in 2020-2022. The widespread repression is obvious.

Lukashenko's judges — has everyone forgotten about them?

The NAM Social Media Manager Evgeniy Teresani spoke at the conference «The Role of the Belarusian Judiciary in the Implementation of Political Repression»

In the situation of terrible repressions, in which all Belarusians find themselves, the focus is on the most visible representatives of the repressive system: the so-called police officers and prison officials. Insufficient attention is paid to the role of judges of Lukashenko's regime.

It is the judges who condemn people to what will happen to them in the next years. Their decisions lead to the fact that people are kept in prisons in inhumane conditions, they are tortured and even killed - we remember the murder of Vitold Ashurka in May 2021 in penal colony #17 in Shklou.

Evgeniy Teresani
Evgeniy Teresani Photo: The NAM-media

The NAM team has been implementing a project for the past few months that seeks to draw attention to the judges of the Lukashenko regime who pass politically motivated, illegal sentences on Belarusians.

Those judges who take part in repressions against the Belarusian people are especially responsible for the crimes they have committed, as they are professional lawyers who cannot but understand what exactly they are doing, what rights of the Belarusans they are violating and what crimes they are committing.

The following materials were used in this article: and


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