BERLIN (Reuters) – Ten Belarusians have asked Germany’s federal prosecutor to open a criminal investigation against President Alexander Lukashenko for alleged crimes against humanity during a crackdown on protests.
Lawyers for the 10 who brought the case against the veteran leader and security officers cited universal jurisdiction laws that allow Germany to try crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.
“All clients have reported of spurious arrests, torture and abuse during the days of their imprisonment… Each of our clients has suffered severe health consequences,” the lawyers said, adding that they knew of more than 100 documented cases of state torture in Belarus.
Minsk did not immediately comment. The Belarusian authorities have characterised the protesters as criminals or violent revolutionaries backed by the West, and described the actions of law enforcement agencies as adequate and necessary.
Lukashenko has faced street protests since a presidential election last August that the opposition says was rigged to enable him to win. Police have arrested thousands of protesters.
Germany’s universal jurisdiction laws were used in February to secure a guilty verdict against a former member of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security services for abetting the torture of civilians.
“Our clients expect from Germany that it also upholds universal human rights in the case of Belarus,” the lawyers said in the new filing. “They demand justice, namely an independent investigation and prosecution of these severe crimes.”
Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is in self-imposed exile in Lithuania, welcomed the legal filing.
“There will never be impunity in Belarus, and today’s news is a clear example of this,” she said in a statement.
In March, the United Nations’ top human rights body agreed to set up a team of investigators to gather evidence about the alleged excessive use of force and torture by authorities in Belarus.
Yury Ambrazevich, the Belarusian ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, described the U.N. move as “yet another attempt to interfere in the domestic affairs of our state”.
(Additonal reporting by Kyiv newsroom, Writing by Paul Carrel, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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