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Discussions on Lukashenko's responsibility for crimes against Belarusians and Ukrainians took place in Brussels


Pavel Latushka: Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, Head of the National Anti-Crisis Management, Ambassador

Pavel Latushka, the Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet and Head of NAM, along with representatives of NAM, participated in a special meeting of the Working Group on Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which serves as the preparatory body for the Council of the EU. This working group prepares proposals for decision-making at the level of foreign ministers and heads of state of the EU.

The primary focus of the meeting was to explore potential actions for holding Lukashenko and his accomplices accountable for their crimes against the Belarusian and Ukrainian peoples. On behalf of the National Anti-Crisis Management, Pavel Latushka outlined five possible mechanisms for bringing representatives of the regime to justice.

Photo: NAM media

The meeting was convened in accordance with a decision made by the Belarus-EU Consultative Group in Brussels in December 2023.

During the group meeting, Pavel Latushka presented a strategic vision for the steps that the EU can take to support Belarusians, as well as actions aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of the sanctions policy against the Lukashenko regime.

"Bringing Lukashenko to international accountability can potentially be achieved through at least five mechanisms:

  • The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, including deportation (the forced displacement of over 300,000 Belarusians from Belarus due to various forms of persecution can be considered as deportation);

  • Recognition of Lukashenko as a war criminal. The ICC also has jurisdiction over the illegal transfer of Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine to Belarus;

  • Initiation of national investigations (in Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Germany, and Switzerland) based on the principle of universal jurisdiction to hold those responsible accountable;

  • The future Special International Tribunal for Russian Aggression in Ukraine would have jurisdiction to investigate the role of Lukashenko and his accomplices in the aggression;

  • If established, the Special International Tribunal for Belarus could investigate all crimes against humanity committed against the Belarusian people."

Pavel Latushka emphasized that the main driving force for achieving a free, democratic, and European Belarus is the Belarusian people. To further support this, concrete steps were proposed for consideration by the European Union:

  • Identification of European partner countries willing to jointly undertake targeted legal action to refer evidence of crimes against humanity, particularly related to deportation, to the International Criminal Court;

  • Advocacy by EU countries and support from Ukraine in initiating the issuance of an arrest warrant for Lukashenko for war crimes associated with the illegal transfer of Ukrainian children to Belarus and their re-education;

  • Priority support program for independent media;

  • Support for the national identity of Belarusians and the promotion of Belarusian culture in emigration;

  • Providing increased opportunities for Belarusians to visit the European Union and obtain multiple-entry Schengen visas.

"The primary strategy is to support the Belarusian people. It is crucial for us to recognize that the Belarusian people are the main force within Belarus to counter and restrain Lukashenko, especially in the face of aggression against Ukraine. In 2020, Belarusians opposed the dictator, and in 2022, they stood against the war unleashed by Russia in Ukraine. If the Lukashenko regime decides to provide territory for the offensive of Russian troops into Ukraine or any EU member state, the Belarusian people will be our main strength. Therefore, they require motivation and support," emphasized Pavel Latushka.

Pavel Latushka stressed that sanctions are one of several methods to exert pressure on the regime.

"While it may appear that sanctions are becoming less effective over time, we should not discuss lifting sanctions but rather focus on enhancing their effectiveness. Here, we propose implementing several systemic steps:

  • Harmonizing trade sanctions between Belarus and Russia to maximize their effectiveness and weaken the capabilities of aggressors.

  • Restricting the transit of sanctioned goods through Belarus to address the issue of circumventing sanctions. This can be achieved through rigorous border control measures and, as an option, the introduction of EU trade quotas with third countries based on pre-war levels.

  • Imposing sanctions on the financial infrastructure used to bypass restrictions, such as isolating SPFS (the Russian equivalent of SWIFT), as well as Belarusian banks, by closing their correspondent accounts in EU banks.

  • Prioritizing sectoral sanctions over targeted sanctions on individual enterprises in the sanctions policy.

  • Introducing sanctions against officials and institutions associated with the so-called Union State, which undermines the sovereignty and independence of Belarus.

  • Sanctions targeting goods produced in Belarusian prisons as alternatives to banned goods.

  • Implementing personal sanctions against regime judges involved in the repression of Belarusians, as well as propagandists who support aggression."

Pavel Latushka. Photo: NAM media

Additionally, Pavel Latushka emphasized the importance of motivating Belarusian society and increasing the openness of the European Union to Belarusian citizens. This includes opening checkpoints for ordinary citizens while limiting the regime's ability to exploit trade for Russia's interests and expanding the financing of repression.

During the discussion on the situation in Belarus, representatives from Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and other countries presented their positions.

The issue of legalizing the stay of Belarusian citizens who were forced to leave Belarus and are currently residing in EU countries was raised and discussed. The recognition of the Cabinet passport as an identification document for Belarusian citizens was also addressed.

Separately, at the request of EU member states' representatives, concerns were raised about the regime's actions to change legislation following the declaration of martial law, the development of military infrastructure in Belarus, and the militaristic propaganda propagated by Lukashenko and regime representatives.

Pavel Latushka also had a meeting with Ambassador Dirk Schuebel, the Special Representative of the European Union for the Eastern Partnership, to discuss the potential use of Eastern Partnership tools for cooperation with Belarusian society.

 

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