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Belarusians file 'state torture' case against Lukashenko in Germany

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus, Feb. 12, 2021.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus, Feb. 12, 2021.   -   Copyright  Maxim Guchek/BelTA Pool Photo via AP
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Ten Belarusians have filed a legal complaint in Germany against Alexander Lukashenko for crimes against humanity.

The complaint is over alleged acts of systemic "torture" committed by security services during the crackdown on pro-democracy protests, the German federal prosecutor's office, based in Karlsruhe, announced on Wednesday.

The demonstrations followed a disputed August 2020 presidential election, which saw Lukashenko credited with more than 80 per cent of the vote. Belarus' opposition movement and Western countries say the election was rigged in his favour.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said that "the Belarusian state authorities responded with massive and unprecedented violence, systematic torture and other abuses".

In total, the lawyers "are aware of more than 100 documented cases of state torture in Belarus".

"UN human rights experts have recorded no less than 450 cases of torture up to September. The real figure should be much higher," they said.

Among the alleged acts targeted by the complaint are "arrests for futile reasons, torture and ill-treatment during the days of detention", the lawyers said, citing "physical violence, humiliation, threats, insults and other degradations during several days".

Deprivation of sleep, food, medical care and "beatings", which had "serious consequences on the health" of the opponents, are also listed in the complaint.

"Overall, the state's treatment can only be described as bestial," they concluded.

Universal jurisdiction

The German judiciary applies the principle of "universal jurisdiction" which allows any person to be tried in Germany for the most serious offences committed anywhere in the world.

It has thus investigated and tried former members of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, accused of acts of torture or "crimes against humanity".

On 24 February, the court in Koblenz convicted for the first time a former member of the Syrian intelligence services for "complicity in crimes against humanity".

The verdict in another trial against a Syrian defendant considered more central to the vast Syrian security apparatus could be handed down in the autumn.

It also enabled the arrest in Germany in March of a Gambian suspected of participating in several murders in his country.

Reporters Without Borders has also filed a complaint against the Saudi regime for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.