The IAPB now has the infrastructure in place to start fulfilling its objectives: “We are now fully prepared to work with the collected information, which is essential to advance justice for victims and survivors of alleged crimes under international law in Belarus”, says Head of Platform, Chief Physician Jens Modvig.
The International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB) is now publishing its first progress report.
The IAPB was launched on 24 March 2021 and has the objective of collecting, processing, and storing evidence of serious human rights violations in Belarus. The IAPB is a collaboration between 18 Belarusian and international expert organisations. The Steering Committee consists of two independent, Belarusian human rights organisations, REDRESS, and DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture, which heads the IAPB. The IAPB is supported and funded by 20 States and the EU.
The IAPB has now been in existence for six months and it is time to take stock. Jens Modvig notes that the organisations in the IAPB, especially in the four members of the Steering Committee, have built up working processes that can effectively contribute to holding the perpetrators of alleged crimes under international law in Belarus to account. A team of technical experts has been hired and the infrastructure capable to support the implementation of the IAPB’s objectives has been established.
This includes a series of Standard Operating Procedures and an IT system ensuring high degree of security. The IAPB has a large amount of data available, which the IAPB secretarial staff team is now ready to verify, process and analyse. At the same time, the IAPB is cooperating with the OHCHR examination of the human rights situation in Belarus mandated by the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 46/20. “The platform represents a very strong, transnational collaboration between all organisations involved and has solid backing from the 20 states and the EU”, says Jens Modvig.
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On 26 August 2021, a statement issued by the Investigative Committee of Belarus announced that allegations of torture and other crimes under international law, including severe deprivation of liberty and sexual violence, will not result in the initiation of criminal investigations or prosecutions by competent State authorities.
According to the statement, complaints submitted to the Investigative Committee of Belarus by 680 persons who had been detained as from early August 2020 formed the basis of this decision. The Committee further concluded that all use of physical force in this context by State authorities was in accordance with Belarusian law.
The statement is the first of its kind demonstrating the unwillingness of Belarus to conduct prompt, effective and impartial investigations into allegations of the involvement of State authorities in crimes under international law. The blanket refusal of the Investigative Committee of Belarus to initiate criminal investigations in response to a considerable number of allegations of torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, by State authorities in the run-up to, during and after the 2020 presidential election violates Belarus’ obligations under international law.
More specifically, under Article 12 of the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT), Belarus is obligated to promptly and impartially investigate acts where there are reasonable grounds to believe that any form of torture or ill-treatment has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction. Article 13 of the UNCAT provides survivors of torture with the right to complain to competent authorities, and to have their case promptly, effectively and impartially examined. The State must take steps to ensure that survivors are protected from further ill-treatment or intimidation.
As a result, the IAPB calls on Belarus to respect its obligations under international law. In particular, Belarus – as any other State Party to the UNCAT – must ensure prompt, effective and impartial investigations into allegations of torture and other crimes under international law. Furthermore, the IAPB urges that any appeal against the decision of the Investigative Committee of Belarus not to open an investigation should be considered, and that those alleging ill-treatment through complaints or by filing appeals must be protected in accordance with international law against any form of ill-treatment, intimidation or other forms of reprisals.
Pursuant to its mandate, the IAPB will continue the collection, preservation and analysis of information and evidence of crimes under international law committed by Belarusian authorities in the run-up to, during and after the 2020 presidential election. The aim is to contribute to accountability processes that will provide justice to survivors and their communities while holding to account those individuals responsible.
The International Accountability Platform for Belarus is an NGO Consortium led by DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture, Viasna, Legal Initiative on behalf of International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus, and REDRESS, and comprising 14 Belarusian and international human rights organisations. The IAPB is supported by 21 States.
Since the 14th of July, at least 9 human rights defenders in Belarus have been detained, and dozens of searches have been conducted in the offices of a wide range of civil society organizations and private apartments of individual human rights defenders. This major crackdown on civil society in Belarus is yet another attempt of the Lukaschenko regime to silence dissent, curb fundamental human rights and stop legitimate documentation of the regime’s human rights violations. This documentation is necessary for bringing perpetrators to justice, and by now, more than 2000 cases of serious human rights violations have been documented.
The detained human rights defenders may be held for 72 hours, and within this deadline they must either be released or charged of a crime. Many of these detainees have now been charged.
The IAPB condemns this crackdown on civil society and calls for the immediate release of all political detainees and prisoners, who are held in blatant violation of international human rights law. Irrespective of the regime’s actions, the IAPB will continue its documentation of serious violations of international human rights law, with the aim of contributing to ensuring accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims in Belarus.
The International Accountability Platform for Belarus is an NGO Consortium led by DIGNITY, Viasna, Legal Initiative on behalf of International Committee for the Investigation of Torture, and Redress, and comprising 14 Belarusian and international human rights organisations. IAPB will collect, consolidate, verify, and preserve information, documentation, and evidence of serious human rights violations in Belarus since August 2020. The IAPB is supported by 21 states.