– The ICC should investigate crimes against humanity in Belarus

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) and partners ask the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate crimes against humanity in Belarus. In wake of the ongoing political repression, at least six civilians have been killed, over 33,000 have been arrested, hundreds have been tortured in police and state security detention and an estimated 14,000 have been driven out of the country.

– There is a reasonable basis to believe that the conduct of the Aleksandr Lukashenko regime amounts to a widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population. Its abuses therefore constitute crimes against humanity, says Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General. – Since May 2020, the regime has conducted a campaign of violence against the civilian population in a bid to retain power at all costs.

Together with International Partnership for Human Rights, Global Diligence LLP, and Truth Hounds the NHC on 19 May 2021 submitted a Communication under Article 15(2) of the Rome Statute to the ICC. The Communication relates to deportation and persecution committed by key members of the regime of President Lukashenko.

– We are aware that Belarus is not a member of the ICC. The focus of the Communication is therefore on the forced displacement of thousands of civilians by the regime, from Belarus onto the territories of Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, and Ukraine, says Berit Lindeman, Director of Policies. – As such, at least part of the alleged crimes occurred on territory over which the ICC can exercise jurisdiction.

As in most post-Soviet countries, impunity prevails in Belarus for human rights crimes that take place in the context of repression and conflict. The victims of the regime’s atrocities have no recourse in the judicial system, which lacks independence and impartiality. Belarus is not a member of the Council of Europe and no other international court or tribunal has jurisdiction over its territory. At present, ICC investigation and prosecution represents the victims’ only chance at holding the regime to account for its conduct.

– There exist concerted efforts to document international crimes and human rights violations that have been committed by the authorities in the context of the ongoing persecution of the democratic movement in Belarus, says Ekeløve-Slydal. – The logical next step is to ensure justice for those suffering from these crimes. We ask Norway and other European states to support ICC investigation.

In their Communication, the organizations request the ICC Prosecutor to conduct a preliminary examination into the alleged crimes, with a view to seeking authorisation to open a full investigation.

Link to Communication

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Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal

Director of PoliciesEmail: [email protected]Phone: +47 95 21 03 07Twitter: @GunnarEkelveSly
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Berit Lindeman

Head of Eastern Europe Central Asia departmentEmail: [email protected]Phone: 909 33 379Twitter: @LindemanBerit
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