The people of the Republic of Belarus have commenced the first-ever worldwide prosecution of a sitting Dictator. Through the global open-source release of a prosecution file that shows Alexander Lukashenko’s torture and abuse of the Belarusian people, lawyers in any jurisdiction will now be able seek his arrest, wherever he travels and in any jurisdiction. This new approach to international justice newly empowers victims against despots, war criminals and other human rights offenders. No longer will they have to wait for their governments to take action.
Lukashenko, commonly known as the ‘Last Dictator in Europe’ has held on to power in Belarus for too long through fraudulent and unfair elections, intimidation, threats and violence.
Lukashenko and other Belarusian state officials, stand accused of the unlawful taking, detention, torture, and mistreatment of opposition presidential candidates and campaigners. Many of the victims are still being detained and remain at risk, as are many other citizens of Belarus.
Lukashenko has been widely criticized by the international community and human rights organisations for orchestrating these crimes. Both he and other members of his regime remain the subject of U.S. and E.U. sanctions for their egregious human rights violationsMcCue & Partners, represent Lukashenko’s victims, their families and the campaign group Free Belarus Now that initiated this legal action. Heading a Belarusian / international coalition of leading lawyers, it has prepared a criminal case against him on charges of torture and hostage taking. We would like to see charges brought against Lukashenko in Belarus but, because of his control of its state organs, including the courts, this will not happen. However, his are international crimes with universal jurisdiction and courts not just in Belarus but also all around the world may seek to prosecute Lukashenko upon these charges. The people of Belarus, whose rights have been abused and ignored by Lukashenko’s courts, today invite Lukashenko to submit to the universal jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales or any other E.U. country where a fair trial can be guaranteed and face serious criminal charges of torture and other international crimes.
McCue & Partners also announces that it will share its case papers and files of evidence with governments, private lawyers and NGOs worldwide who may wish to seek to bring Lukashenko to justice. If national governments do not take action against Lukashenko then civil society will do so. The papers have been prepared by McCue & Partners with the assistance of a group of international lawyers and experts including Mark Muller Q.C., the current Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee, and regional experts, Professor Bill Bowring and Dr. Andrew Wilson. The Case Summary will be available for download from www.mccue-law.com/belarus and other material on request to firstname.lastname@example.org. It will not share information on who we have already partnered, or will partner, with and thus in which jurisdictions prosecutions papers are ready to be filed. The campaign will not give Lukashenko that courtesy and advantage, suffice to say, he can be assured that there are few places in the world where justice will now not be waiting for him. His victims and the ordinary people of Belarus have thus effectively sought to impose a worldwide travel ban on the Last Dictator in Europe.
Wherever Lukashenko travels, he now faces the prospects of prosecution. The international community of nations and its organizations has so far failed to hold Lukashenko to account and to prevent further human rights abuses in Belarus. Only the EU and US has managed to maintain an intermittent travel ban: lifting it when Lukashenko promises to reform only to re-impose it when he inevitably offends again. Unless Lukashenko is prepared to face justice, a de facto people’s travel ban has now been imposed by his victims and the people of Belarus. By preparing this prosecution, his victims, their families, and international civil society have ensured that impunity with respect to torture and electoral fraud in Europe will not stand in 21st Century. Just like his opponents, who live in constant fear for their safety and that of their families, Lukashenko must now look over his shoulder wherever he travels.
This private method of international justice constitutes a new campaign against impunity and torture in Europe. Never before has a prosecution file been made available to civil society worldwide to ensure that there can be no hiding place for international criminals and human rights abusers. In a world of diplomacy, political expediency, and Realpolitik, victims can no longer afford to wait for their governments or the international community to take action. If the prohibition of international crimes, such as torture, is to have real teeth, it is civil society that must seek to enforce it.
The victims’ families, some of whom are resident in the U.K., confirm that if Lukashenko travels here they will prosecute him. They say that if Lukashenko believes that he has committed no crimes then he should travel here to address the charges against him. If he is guilty then he will continue to hide from the allegations against him. We would be willing to agree that theU.K. authorities afford Lukashenko the right of entry to theUK (i.e. a lifting of the travel ban) to face justice.
Should Lukashenko accept our invitation and face his victims he may seek to claim general immunity from prosecution on the ground that he is a sitting head of state. We do not accept that, after the fraudulent elections of 2010, Lukashenko remains the lawfully elected President of Belarus and thus has no right to such immunity. Moreover, we believe that it is time to revisit the issue of state immunity, torture and impunity withinEuropehaving regard to developments within international law and state practice.
The Free Belarus Now campaign wishes to stress that this is only the first step in the fight for justice. While not wishing to publicize full details of its programme for a freeBelarus, it can announce that civil proceedings will be issued in the near future against Lukashenko and other members of his regime. By seeking multi-million-dollar compensation from Lukashenko and his regime, the campaign aims to freeze his ill-begotten assets and force those around him to abandon the last dictator ofEurope.