Press statements

Press Statements

30.01.2023

BELARUS PLATFORM SUPPORTS INCREASING NUMBER OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE AUTHORITIES AND THE UN

The International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB) has made significant progress towards meeting requests for assistance from four states and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The IAPB continues to analyze and preserve thousands of files containing information and evidence on alleged crimes under international law committed in Belarus since 2020.

“Investigations of international crimes can be extraordinarily complex, and require access to significant amounts of evidence. Increasing requests for assistance show how human rights organizations like ours can contribute to meeting these needs,” said Kate Vigneswaran, Head of the IAPB. “What is absolutely vital though is ensuring any support given is consistent with not just criminal justice standards, but survivor-centered approaches that minimize the re-traumatization of witnesses and at the same time ensure evidence is not contaminated.”

The IAPB’s newly published progress report shows that, between February and September 2022, the IAPB provided the OHCHR examination of the human rights situation in Belarus (OEB) with access to its collection of materials, subject to informed consent. Since September, it has facilitated OEB’s access to over 140 victims and witnesses, as well as over 1,400 documents and open-source files relating to violations identified of interest by them. The IAPB and OEB continue to work together to share knowledge and identify continuing areas of support.

During the reporting period, the IAPB also received a request for assistance from the criminal justice authorities of another domestic jurisdiction, bringing the total number of states requesting assistance to four.

During the same period, the IAPB’s Belarusian co-leads, the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and the International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus (International Committee), collected witness statements, medical reports, court records and other materials from 857 survivor-victims and other witnesses, bringing the total to around 20,000 documents from to 2,052 survivor-victims and witnesses gathered by the IAPB so far. In addition, the IAPB has collected over 600,000 files from open sources, including more than 82,000 videos, 238,000 images and 159,000 text items from over 200 sources.

These materials are being analysed for the purpose of identifying survivor-victims and witnesses who may provide information and evidence to criminal justice authorities and the OEB, and to prepare analytical reports and other tools informing such bodies about crimes under international law allegedly committed in Belarus.

Mass arrests and torture

The progress report also notes how the human rights situation in Belarus has continued to deteriorate since the 2020 presidential elections. Mass arrests, detentions and prosecutions of persons on politically motivated charges continue to be the norm, with those released from detention continuing to allege they were subject to torture and other forms of mistreatment.
The human rights crisis deteriorated in 2022. We observe the normalisation of torture and ill-treatment, massive persecution of anyone suspected of dissident opinions and massive crackdown on all civil society organisations. 1,437 persons are recognised as political prisoners by Belarusian human rights organisations,” said Victoria Federova, Representative of IAPB co-lead, International Committee. “The decision of Belarus to denounce the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights leaves citizens of Belarus without any remedies for individual complaints about human rights violations at the international level.

Among those held in detention are six members of Viasna, including the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize winner President Ales Bialiatski and board member Valiantsin Stefanovic, who were presented with new charges in September 2022 which attract an increased term of imprisonment of seven to 12 years. In November 2021, Viasna member and the head of the Center for Strategic Litigation, Leanid Sudalenka, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment; and Viasna volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa was sentenced to two years and six months. Persons fleeing the country risk the appropriation of property they left behind and losing their citizenship, while being vulnerable to discrimination in third countries given Belarus’ role in the conflict in Ukraine. “Next, we must be to try to build effective cases for specific perpetrators and to maximize the interests of victims and witnesses,” said Pavel Sapelko, Representative of IAPB co-lead, Viasna. “Protecting their rights is our top priority.”

In recognition of its contribution to the promotion of human rights in Belarus, Viasna was awarded the Clooney Foundation for Justice Albie Award in the “Justice for Democracy Advocates” category in September 2022 and its founder, Ales Bialiatski, the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2022. In January 2023, International Committee was awarded the “Human Rights Campaign/Initiative of the Year 2022” award by the Belarus human rights community, an initiative of the Human Rights Alliance founded in 2008.

  • Contacts:
  • (English) Kate Vigneswaran, Head of the IAPB; kavi@dignity.dk
  • (Belarusian/Russian) Victoria Federova, Representative, International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus (IAPB co-lead) and Head, Legal Initiative: gomellawyer@gmail.com
  • (Belarusian/Russian) Pavel Sapelko, Representative and Lawyer, Human Rights Centre “Viasna” (IAPB co-lead): sapelko@gmail.com
  • (Danish) Jens Modvig, Medical Director, Dignity (IAPB lead): JMO@dignity.dk
  • About the IAPB
  • The IAPB is a coalition of independent non-government organisations that have joined forces to collect, consolidate, verify, and preserve evidence of gross human rights violations constituting crimes under international law allegedly committed by Belarusian authorities and others in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath. It builds on the ongoing efforts of Belarusian human rights organizations to collect information about human rights violations committed in Belarus. More information about the IAPB can be found on org. The IAPB is led by DIGNITY (Danish Institute Against Torture), the Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, the International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus and REDRESS.

 

Job Opening

INVESTIGATIVE ANALYST – INTERNATIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY PLATFORM FOR BELARUS

Duty station: Home-based

Consultancy duration: As soon as practicable, for a period of 3 months with possible renewal

Reports to: IAPB Senior Legal Advisor

Deadline: Open until filled

Reporting: The Investigative Analyst reports directly to the Senior Legal Advisor and must work collaboratively with other Analysts and Data Manager.


Required:

  • A minimum of 7 years of relevant experience in international criminal law / gross human rights violations or advanced analytical research regarding Belarus.
  • Demonstrated experience with gross human rights violations and/or international criminal law (especially crimes against humanity) or with Belarusian state structures.
  • Experience analysing information and drafting reports in the context of structural investigations, including political, law enforcement and/or military structures.
  • Superior research and report-drafting skills.
  • Written and oral fluency in English.

 

The consultancy will commence on 1 November or as soon as possible, and until the work is complete.

For any questions regarding the position, please contact Kate Vigneswaran, Head of the IAPB, at kavi@dignity.dk.

07.10.2022

IAPB CONGRATULATES ALES BIALIATSKI, FOUNDER OF VIASNA, FOR WINNING THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FOR HIS RELENTLESS FIGHT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN BELARUS

The International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB) warmly congratulates Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, the founder of our co-lead organisation Human Rights Centre Viasna, for the much-deserved honour of being awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Today, Bialiatski, who remains jailed in Belarus on trumped-up charges, received the 2022 Nobel Prize along with Russian human rights organisation Memorial and Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honour three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence in the neighbour countries Belarus, Russia and Ukraine,” said Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen, who called on Belarus to release Bialiatski from prison.

In its citation, the Norwegian Nobel Committee noted:

“The Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.”

“Amazing news on the Nobel Peace Prize for Ales and our colleagues from Memorial and the CCL! This is an international recognition of the achievements of Ales and the human rights organizations, a message of solidarity and support for human rights values for the entire world. This award celebrates Ales’ decades-long selfless struggle for human rights, democratic values, and the revival of Belarus as a nation,” said Pavel Sapelko, Viasna representative on the IAPB Steering Committee.

As a human rights defender, Bialiatski has led an almost 30-year campaign for democracy and freedom. He founded Viasna Human Rights Centre in 1996 during mass protests of the democratic opposition in Belarus, to assist the detained protestors and their families, and has been its chairperson since. Since 1996, the organisation has grown to become the leading human rights organisation in Belarus. It has played a leading role denouncing and documenting human rights abuses committed in the context of fraudulent presidential elections in 2020. Bialiatski was jailed from 2011 and 2014 on a charge of tax evasion, which he always denied, and has been in prison since 2021 on the same charge.

Kate Vigneswaran, Head of the IAPB, said:

“Ales Bialiatski has devoted his life to promote democracy and human rights in Belarus, and for this work, he and other members of our co-lead organisation Viasna have paid a high price. We are honoured and deeply committed to continue to work with Viasna in documenting crimes under international law in Belarus, so these crimes won’t remain unaccounted for. We also echo calls for Belarus to immediately release Ales Bialiatski and all the other Viasna members who remain unlawfully in prison.”

On 29 September, Viasna received the Justice for Democracy Defenders Award from the Clooney Foundation for Justice “for fearlessly and professionally documenting human rights abuses and defending freedom in Belarus.” Alina Stefanovic accepted the award on behalf of her husband Valiantsin, the Deputy Chairman of the group who is currently in prison in Belarus.

Six Viasna members have been detained on trumped-up charges, both of the organisation’s leaders are in jail, and many of their members have been forced to go into exile. The most recent sentences against members of Viasna were handed down on 6 September 2022, where two volunteers of Viasna received lengthy prison sentences in a closed trial.

For more information, contact:

English: Kate Vigneswaran, Head of the IAPB, on kavi@dignity.dk

Belarusian/Russian: Victoria Federova, Representative, International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus (IAPB co-lead) and Head, Legal Initiative: gomellawyer@gmail.com

Belarusian/Russian: Pavel Sapelko, Representative and Lawyer, Human Rights Centre “Viasna” (IAPB co-lead): p.sapelko@gmail.com

Danish: Therese Rytter, Legal Director, Dignity (IAPB lead): TR@dignity.dk

Job Opening

DIGNITY seeks a Junior Analyst (s) for International Accountability Platform for Belarus

Duty station: Home-based
Status: Full-time (37 hours a week)
Consultancy duration: 15 October 2022 until work complete
Reports to: IAPB Analyst
Deadline: Open until filled

08.07.2022

BELARUS PLATFORM’S MANDATE EXTENDED AS HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN BELARUS REMAINS CRITICAL

The mandate of the International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB) will be extended for further 15 months, with solid backing so far from 14 states and the European Union, as the human rights situation in Belarus remains critical, the IAPB announced today.

Pursuant to its mandate, the IAPB will continue to collect, preserve and analyze 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 efforts that will provide justice to survivors and their communities while holding to account those individuals responsible.

The IAPB is an NGO Consortium comprising 18 Belarusian and international human rights organisations, led by DIGNITY (Danish Institute Against Torture), the Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, the International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus and REDRESS.

“The continued operation of the Platform is critically important. Unlike Ukraine, we do not have the support of our state, where the national authorities document war crimes and crimes against humanity and initiate criminal cases, or an International Criminal Court investigation,” said Victoria Federova, a, Representative of IAPB co-lead, the International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus. “When the law does not work within the country, documentation of human rights violations and international crimes and preservation of evidence is important tool for bringing the perpetrators to justice in the future.”

In April, the IAPB announced that since its launch in March 2021, it has gathered over 20,000 documents, including victim and witness statements, and 500,000 items from open sources on gross human rights violations committed in Belarus. During the last year, an IAPB team of legal, medical and technical experts has been working to set up the necessary infrastructure to store, process and verify securely the vast amount of data collected so far.

The extended mandate will allow the IAPB to continue working on the verification, consolidation, and analysis of this data and the production of analytical products to support ongoing and future investigations and prosecutions. It will also allow the IAPB to respond to increasing requests from support from criminal justice authorities in several countries to progress prosecutions under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and to continue providing support to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s Examination on the Human Rights Situation in Belarus, whose mandate was extended in April.

Our organization is excited and grateful for the opportunity to continue the full-scale work of collecting, systematizing and preserving evidence of gross human rights violations committed in Belarus; it is our common obligation to the victims of crimes,” said Pavel Sapelko, Representative and Lawyer of IAPB co-lead, Belarusian NGO Human Rights Centre “Viasna.”

The IAPB also plans to increase cooperation with UN mandate holders and civil society organizations to advance accountability efforts and justice for victims and survivors in Belarus, while maintaining a survivor-centred approach.

States supporting the extension of the IAPB’s mandate so far include Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the USA, as well as the European Union.

“The IAPB has established the tools necessary to ensure information and evidence is preserved and accessible to investigators and prosecutors in a comparably short time and started the complex work of analysing its collection applying criminal justice standards,” Kate Vigneswaran, Head of the IAPB said. “In extending our work for another 15 months, States have recognized the significant contribution we can now make to supporting accountability actors to hold the perpetrators of gross human rights violations committed in Belarus to account and advance justice for victims.”

 

For more information, please visit iapbelarus.org or contact:

English: Kate Vigneswaran, Head of the IAPB, on kavi@dignity.dk

Belarusian/Russian: Victoria Federova, Representative, International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus (IAPB co-lead) and Head, Legal Initiative: gomellawyer@gmail.com

Belarusian/Russian: Pavel Sapelko, Representative and Lawyer, Human Rights Centre “Viasna” (IAPB co-lead): p.sapelko@gmail.com

Danish: Therese Rytter, Legal Director, Dignity (IAPB lead): TR@dignity.dk

10.06.2022

International Accountability Platform for Belarus discusses accountability efforts with Svetlana Tsihanouskaya, leader of the democratic opposition of Belarus

 

The International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB) met today with Svetlana Tsihanouskaya, the leader of the democratic opposition of Belarus, to discuss the work that it has been carrying out to support accountability efforts for gross human rights violations committed in Belarus.

The IAPB is a coalition of Belarusian and international independent NGOs which was established in March 2021 to collect, consolidate, verify and preserve evidence of gross human rights violations allegedly committed by Belarusian authorities and others in the context of the August 2020 presidential election and its aftermath. The meeting, the first with the exiled opposition leader, took place in Copenhagen, and it was attended by representatives of the IAPB’s Steering Committee —Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, the International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus and DIGNITY-Danish Institute Against Torture—and the IAPB secretariat.

The IAPB provided Tsihanouskaya with an overview of the work it has carried out to date to collect and preserve information and evidence and make it available to accountability bodies, and its plans to ensure such material is accessible to longer-term efforts to hold perpetrators accountable and ensure remedies and reparations for victims.

Since its launch, the IAPB has gathered over 20,000 documents, including victim and witness statements and related documents, and 500,000 items from open sources on gross human rights violations committed in Belarus. It has also provided support to UN OHCHR’s Examination on the Human Rights Situation in Belarus and to criminal justice authorities in several countries to ensure perpetrators of these crimes can be brought to account.

The IAPB’s most recent progress report, released in April, highlighted that since September 2021, the situation in Belarus has remained critical, including in the context of recent protests against Belarus’ potential support for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Belarusian authorities have continued to persecute persons perceived as a threat to the government and have liquidated the majority of civil society organisations. As of 9 June 2020, there were 1,232 political prisoners in Belarus, according to data collected by IAPB Steering Committee member Viasna, including a number of members of their team, and over 4,000 complaints of torture and other ill-treatment in state facilities having been filed since August 2020.

The IAPB’s work builds on the ongoing efforts of Belarusian human rights organisations to collect information about human rights violations committed in Belarus, and itc is supported by 20 States and the European Union.

For more information, please visit iapbelarus.org or contact:

English: Kate Vigneswaran, Head of the IAPB, on kavi@dignity.dk

Belarusian/Russian: Victoria Federova, Representative, International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus (IAPB co-lead) and Head, Legal Initiative: gomellawyer@gmail.com

Belarusian/Russian: Pavel Sapelko, Representative and Lawyer, Human Rights Centre “Viasna” (IAPB co-lead): p.sapelko@gmail.com

Danish: Therese Rytter, Legal Director, Dignity (IAPB lead): TR@dignity.dk