Press statements

2022

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

01.03.2022

The International Accountability Platform for Belarus made significant progress towards justice efforts in Belarus.

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.

Press contact: DIGNITY’s press telephone + 45 22 91 00 20 or e-mail: presse@dignity.dk

01.02.2022

The International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB): Belarus’ decision not to initiate criminal investigations into allegations of torture and ill-treatment violates its obligations under international law.

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.

01.01.2022

International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB) condemns the detention of human rights defenders.

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.