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Democracy begins with responsibility

In 2020, the Belarusian people showed that they are ready for both. The Belarusian people have shown that they are ready to take responsibility for the future of their country, the responsibility to determine this future through national dialogue and consensus. Through the key instrument of democracy – elections. The real, and not fabricated by the regime, results of the 2020 elections showed that the result of the national dialogue was the victory of the democratic aspirations of Belarusians and the defeat of the long-term dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko.

The Belarusians came to an agreement and, with an overwhelming majority of votes, made their choice in favor of democracy. And for the first time in the history of election campaigns in Belarus, this was convincingly proven by digital platforms for online monitoring of elections and alternative vote counting - “Golos” and “Zubr”.

The very appearance of these platforms, created on the eve of the 2020 elections, is a sign of the responsibility and willingness of the people to fight for democracy, honestly protect their votes and not allow them to be stolen – like it was being done by the Lukashenko regime more than 20 years in a row before.

The 2020 elections, in principle, have become the most important election campaign for Belarusians. And the most widespread.

This was evident even during the collection of signatures for the registration of alternative candidates, when queues of several hundred meters formed at the collection points. This was evident when, without exaggeration, there was an almost kilometer-long line of Belarusians in front of the CEC building to massively file complaints about the illegal refusal of the Lukashenko regime to register a number of popular candidates. This was evident from the numerous actions of solidarity of Belarusians in response to injustice and repression, which in 2020 began much earlier than August 9. And finally, this was obvious on the day of the election itself, when the same huge lines lined up at polling stations, which were completely unprepared for such a massive voter turnout.

The 2020 elections showed that the Belarusian people are one of the most civilized, responsible and ready for democracy in the world, I will say this frankly.

Despite the fact that out of the 33 years of existence of the independent Republic of Belarus, Belarusians were able to live in democracy for only 4 years - until 1994, when Alexander Lukashenko became president. And that was the only time he was actually elected. After that, not a single election campaign in Belarus was democratic, fair and transparent.

Almost every one provoked protests from Belarusians, who understood that their votes were being stolen and grossly falsified every time. And almost every election in Belarus ended in repressions against dissidents, brutal suppression of protests and the appearance of political prisoners. And Lukashenko continued to rule. Through the murders of political opponents, lies, violence, fear.

But there have never been more fearful events in modern Belarus than after the 2020 elections.

Remember earlier I talked about the huge queues at polling stations in every city and town? Having cast their votes overwhelmingly for Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarusians did not go home. They were waiting for the protocols. Hoping that this time members of election commissions simply will not be able to resist the obvious and will show real voting results. That this time they will take responsibility and just do their job honestly.

Only a few did this. By posting protocols with real results. The vast majority of polling stations did not post protocols at all. Instead, they called in riot police to disperse their fellow citizens, who were simply demanding compliance with the laws and their right to vote.

Then Belarusians went out to protests throughout the country. Peaceful protests, non-violent. In response, the riot police started shooting at them. Throw grenades. Beat and maim. Massively detain and torture. Kill. The Lukashenko regime shut down the Internet throughout the country to hide what was happening. But it didn't work out. Belarusians still found out what was happening on the streets, what was happening in police stations and detention centers. The whole country learned about unprecedented violence on the part of “law enforcement,” about terrible mass torture, about the first murders of peaceful protesters.

Violence has not stopped Belarusians and their desire for democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human and civil rights. On August 16, 2020, Belarusians went out to the largest protest rally in the modern history of the country. About half a million people took part in this March for Freedom in Minsk alone.

And again, Belarusians did not violate laws on principle, did not resort to violence, nothing was destroyed or burned by the peaceful protestors. As in all subsequent marches and protests. Even when Lukashenko’s regime turned the country into a springboard for starting a war against Ukraine. At that time, continuous repression had been going on in Belarus for a year and a half; more than 1,000 people were recognized as political prisoners. But Belarusians still came out to protest. Against war. Against violence.

One may say that this is why Lukashenko stayed in power. That Belarusians needed to respond to violence with violence. To shed not only their own blood, but also that of others, for freedom and democracy. Maybe. But Belarusians chose the civilized path. That is why the whole world admired the protests in Belarus.

And yes, even if peaceful protests did not lead to the elimination of the dictatorship, they themselves are the best confirmation of what I said at the very beginning: “Democracy begins with responsibility.”

And having accepted responsibility for the choice made in 2020, the choice in favor of democracy, Belarusians chose the most difficult path to fight for it. And this is still worthy of respect.

And even more it is worthy of support.

Belarusians proved this in 2020 and continue to prove today - that they are ready to take responsibility for the future of their country, are ready for democracy, that they, like any civilized nation, choose law and justice.

But instead, Belarusians are being held responsible for Lukashenko’s crimes for three years now, and the real criminal, who is Lukashenko himself, has still not been brought to any responsibility.

Every day Belarusians are illegally detained, imprisoned, tortured, expelled from the country, declared criminals, extremists and terrorists. I tell you this as a person who has been charged by the regime with 8 criminal charges, some of which carry the death penalty. Sentenced in absentia to 18 years in a maximum security colony. Lukashenko’s KGB included me in the list of persons “involved in terrorist activities.” So it turns out that a criminal is now standing in front of you? A terrorist?

And this is just my personal story. One of many, because there are thousands of such stories (and even more terrible ones) in Belarus now... And at the same time, the real terrorist, criminal against humanity and war criminal - Alexander Lukashenko - has not yet been declared as such.

Therefore, I will repeat once again - democracy begins with responsibility.

And it is precisely bringing the Lukashenko regime to responsibility, to justice that is the greatest support that the civilized world can provide to Belarusians today. This is the biggest step towards the victory of democracy. Towards the victory of law and justice.

What kind of responsibility am I talking about? First of all, about international criminal responsibility.

1. According to the report of the Center for Law and Democracy "Justice Hub", prepared with the support of the National Anti-Crisis Management and a copy of which I hold in my hands, since May 2020, more than 136 thousand (!) Belarusians have become victims of the Lukashenko regime’s crimes against humanity, and precisely such as: unlawful imprisonment, torture, murder, rape and other serious forms of sexual violence - including against minors, enforced disappearances, persecution and deportation.

This report contains an in-depth legal analysis of crimes against humanity committed by the Lukashenko regime, and most importantly, a detailed algorithm of actions to activate the appropriate mechanisms of international criminal justice: the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the creation of a special International Criminal Tribunal for Belarus and the application of universal jurisdiction. This report has already been sent to all our international partners. You can also view it using the QR code that I am currently holding in my hands.

2. In addition, the team of the National Anti-Crisis Management prepared a Communication in accordance with Article 15(2) of the Rome Statute on the involvement of dictator Lukashenko personally and his accomplices in the war crime of the illegal transfer of Ukrainian children from temporarily occupied territories.

The first part of this communication was transmitted by us to the International Criminal Court in Hague on June 27, 2023. On November 7, 2023, we transmitted the second part, containing additional evidence of this crime.

In total, according to our data, more than 3,000 Ukrainian children were taken to Belarus, more than 2,100 of them, including orphans, in clear violations of international humanitarian law.

The NAM team established a clear hierarchy of “superior-subordinate” relationships between Lukashenko and the officials and other persons involved in illegal actions. At the top of this hierarchy is the self-proclaimed president Lukashenko, who illegally holds power in Belarus and is also the chairman of the Supreme State Council of the so-called Union State of Belarus and Russia.

I have copies of these documents in my hands. Pay attention to their volume.

And let's ask ourselves - is all this still not enough to bring Lukashenko to justice?

Are 1,500 officially recognized political prisoners, complicity in the war against Ukraine, and more than 136 thousand crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by this regime not enough for accountability to come?

At the very beginning, I said that Belarusians clearly demonstrated their readiness to resolve the crisis politically and in a civilized manner. Through national dialogue and consensus. We are also standing for dialogue and for a round table following the example of Poland.

But until responsibility comes, until Lukashenko is destroyed politically and everyone around him understands that national dialogue is the only way out, there will be no dialogue.

There will be no way out of the crisis, there will be no democratic elections, no matter how much the European Union calls for them in its statements, political prisoners will not be released, the violence will not stop. The migration crisis organized by Lukashenko will not stop. The use of Belarus as a springboard for war against Ukraine will not stop. The abduction of Ukrainian children will not stop.

But we can stop this. The European Union can stop this. All you need for this, all the tools, are in your hands.

1. International criminal liability for Lukashenko. Issuing a warrant against him from the International Criminal Court. There is already every reason for this.

Issuing a warrant will destroy Lukashenko’s figure politically and will be a signal to everyone around him that he can and should be gotten rid of as a toxic asset. Let's do that.

2. Recognition of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus under the leadership of elected President Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya as the only legitimate government of Belarus.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström has already announced such recognition, here is his quote:

“We recognize only one legitimate government of Belarus and that is of course the one operated by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who was the president-elect before President Lukashenko stole the election.”

Such a recognition, again, would send a signal to the system that the Lukashenko regime will not be able to turn the page in international relations until the system gets rid of the dictator and begins a dialogue with the Cabinet and the democratic forces of Belarus. Let's do that.

3. Shock, complex sanctions - as a tool for accountability for all the long-term crimes of the Lukashenko regime and forcing the system to dialogue.

We are talking about the need for complete harmonization of sanctions against Russia and the Lukashenko regime for military aggression against Ukraine, a ban on the transit of goods through Belarus; blocking sanctions on the financial sector, the elimination of exceptions to existing sectoral sanctions and the maximum expansion of sanctioned sectors of the economy, for example, wood processing, nitrogen fertilizers, mechanical engineering. And removing from the agenda the issue of easing sanctions and, especially, the lifting of sanctions on potash fertilizers.

Again, the system must clearly understand that as long as Lukashenko is in power, there will not be any hope for a way out of the crisis. Sanctions will not be lifted, but will be expanded. Let's do that.

4. Non-recognition of the so-called parliamentary elections 2024 now, without waiting for them to be held. Since 2020, there is no legitimate government in Belarus that could conduct election campaigns. The date of parliamentary elections in Belarus is set by the president, but Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was elected president, not Lukashenko. He cannot call any elections. The very fact of holding so-called parliamentary elections in 2024 will automatically mean that the new parliament will be illegitimate.

This means that this “parliament” will not have the right to set the date for the presidential elections in 2025 - accordingly, they will already be illegitimate in advance

And again, the system must understand that there is no way out of this situation while Lukashenko is at its center. And that the crisis can only be ended through national dialogue with the Cabinet and democratic forces - and without Lukashenko.

So let's do it all. Let's take these steps and you will see that they will work.

Democracy begins with responsibility. Belarusians are a responsible nation, and we can always reach an agreement with each other. But we have nothing to negotiate with Lukashenko. Lukashenko must bear deserved responsibility for all his crimes.

Let's do it. It's time to act. Long live Belarus!


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