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4 international legal instruments to prosecute crimes against humanity in Belarus right now

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Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s legal representative Sergei Zikratsky


Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s legal representative, Sergei Zikratsky, is sure that the international community’s attention to crimes against humanity in Belarus is noticeable, but it is expressed more in statements than in lawsuits. And reminds of 4 ways to fix it:

1. Citizens of Belarus cannot file individual complaints against their country. But another state can file a complaint. Its consideration in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the most effective means of holding a country accountable under international law. This is a new tool, but it is based on thorough legal analysis and has already gained acceptance. Belarus has never appeared before the MC. But since the violations of human rights in it are unprecedented, the countries concerned should also think about an unprecedented step — filing it with the ICJ.

2. Each member state of the Chicago Convention (CC) can initiate a case against Belarus in the ICJ for the incident with the Ryanair plane. Any of them will also be able to appeal to the ICJ after the ICAO decision. All countries, the rights of citizens and organizations of which were violated then, can begin such a procedure.

3. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to crimes against humanity. Belarus has not signed the Rome Statute, but in the practice of the ICC there are cases of crimes committed not in its member state. One of the ways: UN Security Council resolution. Decisions on such matters must be taken by consensus of all of its permanent members. And any country that agrees that crimes against humanity have been committed in Belarus can and should initiate such a decision.

4. The rules of universal jurisdiction in the criminal codes of many countries allow the initiation of cases there on crimes against humanity. One case was initiated in Lithuania, there are initiatives to open cases in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France — but this is not enough. We know the arguments about the refusal to start cases in some countries — and they are legally unfounded. The only reason: lack of political will.

Declaration of the participants of the legal conference in Nuremberg

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