DIGNITY Will Lead New International Initiative to Document Torture in Belarus

A new international coalition of Belarusian and international human rights organisations will collect and verify comprehensive documentation of torture and other serious human rights violations in Belarus and pave the way for holding the Lukashenko regime accountable. The initiative is supported by 19 countries, among these Denmark, Germany, the UK and the United States.

The name of the new initiative is the International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB). DIGNITY CEO Rasmus Grue Christensen speaks enthusiastically about the Platform and DIGNITY’s leading role:

»It is a great honour for us that so many governments support this initiative that aims to seek redress on behalf of the victims and will hopefully contribute to a prosecution of torture perpetrators from Belarus«.

By its brutal methods toward the opposition and ordinary citizens, the Lukashenko regime blatantly violated human rights in the run-up to and the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election that is highly disputed. Lukashenko claims to have won by a large margin.

Belarusian organisations have, supported by DIGNITY and other international organisations, documented more than 2000 cases of torture, inhuman treatment and other flagrant violations of human rights in connection with and after the election.

This material and extensive new documentation, which will now be collected, will be part of the IAPB database, where the documentation will be consolidated, verified, and preserved for future use.

DIGNITY will lead the international coalition together with the Belarusian human rights organisations Viasna and the International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus as well as the British anti-torture organisation Redress.

Important signal

»With the IAPB we send an important signal that serious violations of human rights will be documented for future trials«, says DIGNITY Medical Director Jens Modvig, who will lead the IAPB Steering Committee and Secretariat.

Prosecution of those responsible within the Lukashenko regime for serious human rights violations will not necessarily have to await a change of regime in Belarus. DIGNITY Legal Director Therese Rytter says:

»Already at present, it is possible to prosecute alleged perpetrators under the principle of universal jurisdiction in certain countries outside of Belarus, if the alleged perpetrator is present on the territory of that country. Germany has done this in cases involving Syrian war criminals. Germany and other states could do the same in cases of Belarusian perpetrators«, says Therese Rytter.

She adds that the UN Human Rights Council is currently (March 2021) considering a draft resolution, which, if adopted, will give the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) a strengthened mandate to investigate human rights violations committed in Belarus. As the OHCHR will most likely not be able to start its work until late 2021 or early 2022, it is important that the IAPB initiates its work as soon as possible so as to ensure that valuable evidence is not lost, but instead collected so that it can serve criminal investigations and prosecution.

So far, the IAPB has financial support for its work until the summer of 2022. The continuation of the work thereafter will, among other things, depend on the political situation in Belarus and the possibility of handing over the documentation to the UN and to possible tribunals.

IAPB’s Secretariat will be situated in Copenhagen and have a staff of around 10. It will work closely with experts in a number of countries and with organisations in Belarus and elsewhere.

Belarusians, who are either victims or witnesses of the regime’s human rights violations and would like to contribute with documentation, should contact one of the organisations that are part of the IAPB.

The IAPB and DIGNITY will assist Belarusian partner organisations with technical assistance, training, and capacity building.

Media contact:
DIGNITY’s press telephone + 45 22 91 00 20 or e-mail: presse@dignity.dk

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