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Human rights watchdogs seek German investigation of Belarusian security members

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By Reuters
Human rights watchdogs seek German investigation of Belarusian security members
Human rights watchdogs seek German investigation of Belarusian security members   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

BERLIN – Six high-ranking members of the Belarusian security authorities were accused of committing crimes against humanity in a criminal complaint filed in Germany by human rights watchdogs on Monday.

The complaint was filed with the German Public Prosecutor General by the Geneva-based World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

In a joint statement the groups cited alleged crimes – including mass detentions, torture, disappearances, sexual violence and political persecution – committed by the Belarusian security authorities since August 2020. The opposition had said an election that month that gave President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term had been rigged.

“There is clear evidence that torture was used intentionally and that it was widespread and systematic, thus reaching the threshold of crimes against humanity,” OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock said in the statement.

OMCT which did not name the accused.

The activist groups said they filed the lawsuit in Germany because of its principle of universal jurisdiction, allowing its courts to prosecute crimes against humanity committed anywhere.

ECCHR said it expects Germany’s Federal Prosecutor to initiate preliminary proceedings against the accused because there was no foreseeable investigation on the matter in Belarus itself.

The German prosecutor’s office and Germany’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

Similar complaints filed by ECCHR against suspected members of President Bashar al-Assad’s security services culminated in arrest warrants and started trials on Syrian state torture in the higher regional court in the western city of Koblenz.