The Belarussian president has been charged with crimes against humanity in response to anti-government protests, lawyers say.
Ten Belarusians have called on German Federal Prosecutor General Alexander Lukashenko and Belarusian security officials to launch a criminal investigation into crimes against humanity in the wake of anti-government protests.
The lawyers who have now brought the case on behalf of 10 people living across Europe have cited universal jurisdiction laws that allow countries to try crimes against humanity, including war crimes and genocide, regardless of where they were done.
Germany has been particularly active in pursuing such cases involving the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Lawyers say their clients have documented more than 100 instances of “violence, constitutional torture and other torture” during the Belarusian government’s involvement in protests that began after Lukashenko won a presidential election last August that the opposition was unjustified in claiming.
They added, “The ruling government is cracking down on its own people with a crackdown, including arbitrary arrests, torture of politically motivated criminals and other forms of repression.”
Lawyers said all of their clients were incarcerated and there were reports of “fraudulent arrests, torture and ill-treatment” at the time of their arrest.
The Belarusian government did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
A few thousand people to take part in protests against Lukashenko were arrested by the police.
Authorities identified the participants as pro-Western and violent revolutionaries, and described the actions of law enforcement agencies as adequate and necessary.
The Syrian case provides a ‘precedent’
Germany’s sovereign jurisdiction laws were used in February to reduce the torture of civilians by handing down convictions against a former member of Assad’s security services.
Citing the case, representatives of 10 Belarusian delegates said in their filing that the group wanted an independent investigation and trial of those convicted.
The Syrian precedent showed that “law enforcement agencies can do what they want,” said Onur Ojata, one of the lawyers.
Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is in self-imposed exile in Lithuania, welcomed the legal action.
“Belarus will never be acquitted and is a clear example of today’s news,” he said in a statement.
In March, the UN’s top human rights body agreed to form a team of investigators to gather evidence of allegations of excessive force and torture by Belarusian authorities.
Belarusian Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Yuriy Ambrajevic described the move as “another attempt to interfere in our state’s domestic affairs.”
Despite sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States in response to the protests, Lukashenko’s government has taken a firm stand against foreign pressure to change course.
The 66-year-old leader, backed by allied Russia, has demanded to resist the Western-led revolution instead.