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BWF Press release: "Immediate starting of criminal proceeding against Lukashenka"

published on 10.01.22: InstagramFBTelegram,Twitter, Linkedin 

On May 19, 2021 the Belarus Women’s Foundation filed a claim to the International Criminal Court in the Hague to start criminal proceedings against a citizen of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenka, for crimes against humanity.  Our volunteers spent six months collecting video testimonies from women who experienced torture, violence, beatings, humiliation and unlawful detention in Belarus. The Belarus Women’s Foundation submitted video recordings with the testimonies from the female victims to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

In our claim we also referred to the crimes which Mr. Lukashenka has also committed against the citizens of Belarus, being:

1)  Giving orders to kill political opponents;

2)  Enforced disappearances of political opponents;

3)  Forced deportation of the citizens of the Republic of Belarus;

4)  Unlawful deprivation of liberty of citizens, fabrication of criminal cases;

5)  Using torture, beatings and brutality in detention centres and in prisons.

The Geneva Declaration on Terrorism, as ratified by the UN General Assembly in 1987 defines state terrorism as manifesting in the following:

1. police state practices against its own people to dominate through fear by surveillance, disruption of group meetings, control of the news media, beatings, torture, false and mass arrests, false charges and rumours, show trials, killings.

Lukashenka routinely employs acts of state terrorism to govern the Belarusian people through fear and intimidation. His policy of mass imprisonment aims to scare the Belarusian people into submission in the face of sheer numbers of incarcerations. As of the date of this press release, on January 10, 2022, there are 1,195 political prisoners in Belarus, 133 of whom are women political prisoner  and another 101 women who are under partial house arrests. The number of political prisoners increases each day.

Since August 2020, 40 000 people have been processed through the prison system in Belarus; this is an unprecedented number for any European country since the end of the WWII.  There are more than 5000 politically motivated criminal cases in Belarus and hundreds of documented cases of torture and violence by the state.

Citizens are sent to prison for wearing national democratic colours (white-red-white combination); for commenting on social media; for being a parent of an activist; for taking balaclavas off violent state security agents; detained for lighting a candle by their window in memory of an innocent who was killed; for being a journalist executing their duty by reporting on events in Belarus such as speaking the truth about the alleged blood alcohol level of an innocent 31-year-old man beaten to death. In effect, because there is no international court holding Lukashenko and his thugs to justice, law enforcement can invent unscrutinised evidence and reasons for detention.

All independent media and more than 180 NGOs have been shut down, including cultural heritage, educational, human rights and environmental organisations, research, consumer protection groups, and organisations offering assistance to various social groups. Almost the entire team of journalists from the leading independent media portal has been put in detention. 

2. assassinations, assassination attempts, and plots directed by a state towards the officials of other states, or national liberation movements, whether carried out by military strike, special forces units or covert operations by "intelligence forces" or their third-party agents.

The human rights situation in Belarus deteriorates day by day. Since the presidential elections dozens of people have gone missing in Belarus, 10 peaceful protesters have been killed. The latest killing took place on January 1, 2022, when a 27-year-old Dmitry Uskhopov was beaten to death in police custody.  Not a single criminal case has been opened to investigate these killings, and not a single perpetrator has been brought to justice while peaceful citizens of Belarus continue to be unlawfully detained and sent to prison with disproportionately long sentences. There is irrefutable evidence that Alexander Lukashenka had personally given orders to use the brutality towards peaceful citizens and that he protected those who followed such criminal orders.

In 1998 under Lukashenko’s orders the former Interior minister, the chair of the Officer Union, Yuri Zakharenko, the chair of the Central Election Comittee, Viktor Gonar, a businessman Anatoliy Krasovsky and a Russian cameraman Dmitry Zavadsky were murdered.

Lukashenka fully admitted to his involvement by saying that he personally «ordered to get rid of these wicked people». This concerned the so-called Death Squad made up of the law-enforcement officers who were tasked with enforced disappearance of people in charge of criminal investigation bodies and political opponents.

We must also mention the murder of the political and opposition journalist Pavel Sheremet in Ukraine who, allegedly, was murdered by the Belarusian security agents. There exists a telephone recording of a conversation of the former KGB head, Mr Zaitsev, who could be summoned to court to disclose the indentity of the person who ordered the killing of the Belarusian journalist.

3. the abrogation of civil rights, civil liberties, constitutional protections and the rule of law under the pretext of alleged counter-terrorism.

The activists, the public figures, the Belarusian opposition leaders and ordinary members of the public who committed no crimes are being sent to prison for record-breaking long terms for alleged acts of terrorism or breaches of the peace. Sergey Tikhanovsky was imprisoned for 18 years, Nikolai Statkevich - for 14 years, Igor Losik - 15 years, Victor Babariko - 15 years, Maria Kolesnikova - 11 years, Maxim Znak - 10 years, just as hundreds of other Belarusians have been. 

All of the above practices by the state (or by its citizens) and lack of any responsibility/punishment for such crimes classify a state as a terrorist state. Thus, the Government of Belarus under Mr. Alexander Lukashenka is engaging in acts against their citizens that are in contravention of the Geneva Declaration on Terrorism.

Eight months since our submission, the Belarus Women’s Foundation has so far received no response from the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

We struggle to understand how the Court primarily tasked with investigating crimes against humanity is closing its eyes to the killings, torture and violence against peaceful citizens in a country at the centre of Europe?

How many more Belarusians must be killed or tortured for the honourable International Criminal Court to take notice of our suffering?

How many more children in Belarus must lose their parents so that some action is taken?

How many more planes, with the EU/international citizens onboard should be hijacked by Mr Lukashenka’s Military/Air Force for us to be heard?

How many more migrant crises should Lukashenka orchestrate at the EU borders for our plight to be recognised?

On January 7th, 2022, Belarus Women’s Foundation sent a request for a status update to the International Criminal Court. 

We and the Belarusian people demand the ICC to open a criminal investigation against Mr. Lukashenka without further delay, to immediately stop the killings, torture and unlawful detentions of peaceful citizens of Belarus who lose their lives, freedom and health simply because they demanded fair and transparent presidential elections in our country.

 #LukashenkaTribunal ❗️

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Women political prisoners in Belarus

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