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Hunting the Punisher

International persecution

Pavel Latushka, representative of the Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, and NAM lawyers on international prosecution of suspected torturers of Belarusians.

Since 2020, human rights defenders have recorded the maximum of torture in Belarus in Europe in the 21st century — more than a thousand cases.

How to punish the sadistic enforcers?

There are three ways: international tribunals, national and universal jurisdiction. The first way is too complicated and long (it takes years). The second one is not feasible in Belarus (the regime does not prosecute the perpetrators). This leaves universal jurisdiction. Working within its framework is possible both on the international and national levels.

Let’s break down the first level and present a strategy from our lawyers.

So, the main legal justification for prosecution is Article 5 of the Convention against Torture. It is difficult to use: the regime does not extradite perpetrators to countries where it is theoretically prepared to apply the document.

Even if the perpetrator ends up in such a country, many factors must coincide. Here are the main ones:

  • the victim has identified the suspect;

  • is in the same country as the suspect;

  • the victim is not afraid to report the crime;

  • finds a lawyer who is willing to take on the case, prepares a complaint and delivers it to law enforcement;

  • the police and the prosecutor’s office follow up on the case while the suspect is still in the country.

But a more realistic goal could be set: to achieve an international search for the suspect. The pros of such a solution:

  • there is no statute of limitations;

  • the suspect will not be able to leave Belarus and possibly Russia (as opposed to the sanctions where all regions except the US and EU are accessible) and risks being detained by Interpol;

  • the presence of the suspect in the country of prosecution is not necessary

  • Documented evidence of torture is sufficient

  • the indefinite nature of the charges would be an incentive to extradite the perpetrators in order to lift the sanctions on Belarus.

Solidarity among democracies

Let’s look at the second tool — prosecution in individual countries, for example, if the suspects end up in their territory.

How realistic is it?

Germany and Spain already have successful examples in their jurisprudence of justice in universal jurisdiction, in which torture cases are also dealt with. The UK is promising as its legal system allows for applications in universal jurisdiction without the victim or suspect having a close connection to the UK.

The mentioned states have signed the Convention against Torture and politically recognise the Lukashenko regime as criminal. However, there are no open criminal cases of torture in Belarus on their territory yet.

NAM is actively consulting with lawyers and law enforcers in these countries. Our partners are willing to work with us on overcoming administrative obstacles to make it easier to open such cases in the future.

So far, cooperation with Poland and Lithuania looks the most realistic. These two countries are the most active in supporting the idea of punishing the perpetrators of repression, and while Poland still needs to work out the laws, Lithuania already has at least one open criminal case for torture of supporters of democracy by the Belarusian security forces.

If you can identify any of the perpetrators, have any evidence of their involvement, are willing to cooperate with the investigation and give evidence to the Lithuanian police — contact NAM lawyers via the chatbot: @nau_by_bot

Perhaps it is your message that will help to put out an investigation of regime law enforcers involved in sadism or abuse of power.

One of the priorities of Pavel Latushka, a representative of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, is the prosecution of Belarusians suspected of torture.


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