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Against tyranny and torture: A documentation mechanism for severe human rights violations in Belarus

Protests in Minsk following the presidential elections, 23 August 2020 

Protests in Minsk following the presidential elections, 23 August 2020 , © ©dpa

11.06.2021 - Article

In March 2021, to counter tyranny in Belarus, the Federal Government joined with international partners to initiate a mechanism to document severe human rights violations in Belarus. The aim is to make it possible to investigate and prosecute such cases in future.

The security apparatus behind Belarusian strongman Lukashenko is brutal in its efforts to clamp down on the protest movement. Despite many proven accusations of torture, mistreatment and arbitrary arrests, not a single member of the security forces has been put on trial to date. Commenting on this culture of tyranny and lawlessness, Foreign Minister Maas said:

Torture, violence and oppression – human rights violations of the highest order – must have consequences. Especially when they are committed right in the middle of Europe. We at least will not close our eyes to this injustice. That is why we have joined with Denmark, the United Kingdom and other countries to launch the International Accountability Platform for Belarus.

Set up in March 2021, the International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB) is intended to help collect and preserve evidence of torture and other serious human rights violations early on and in a secure manner. It is one element in efforts towards ensuring more comprehensive accountability. There are various ways in which documented evidence can in future be used to ensure accountability: it can form the basis for subsequent prosecutions in Belarus or in third states in line with the principle of universal jurisdiction. The IAPB can also work with international investigation mechanisms, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Along with Germany, Denmark and the United Kingdom as the main initiators, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland and the United States are supporting the initiative.

Joint statement by 19 states in support of the establishment of the International Accountability Platform for Belarus PDF / 282 KB

The platform, which will be independent in its work and decision-making, will document human rights crimes by talking to victims of torture and other serious human rights violations. It will archive this evidence and process it in such a way that it can be presented in court. The IAPB will be led by the non-governmental organisations DIGNITY (Danish Institute against Torture) and REDRESS (UK) and the Belarusian human rights organisations Viasna and International Committee for Investigation of Torture in Belarus.

In parallel, Germany is supporting the investigation mechanism mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The two mechanisms will cooperate closely

Political and financial support for the IAPB is part of the Federal Foreign Office’s ”Action plan for civil society in Belarus“, for which up to €21m is available to promote civil-society activities. Support for the democracy movement and for Belarusian civil society is the key element of Federal Government and EU policy on Belarus, alongside the pressure of sanctions against the regime under strongman Lukashenko, the circle of power around him and profiteers of the regime.

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