By Terance Walsh
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
LONDON, United Kingdom — McCue and Partners, a British law firm, has posted a “Prosecution Kit” to guide civilians, NGOs, and governments in arresting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The Kit is a dossier of evidence of human rights violations committed by Lukashenko.
McCue had originally announced that it would be compiling a prosecution file for Lukashenko last March.
The firm’s website reads, “Wherever Lukashenko travels, he now faces the prospect of prosecution. The international community of nations and its organizations has so far failed to hold Lukashenko to account and to prevent further human rights abuses in Belarus. Only the E.U. and U.S. [have] managed to maintain an intermittent travel ban: lifting it when Lukashenko promises to reform only to re-impose it when he inevitably offends again. Unless Lukashenko is prepared to face justice, a de facto people’s travel ban has now been imposed by his victims and the people of Belarus. . . . Just as his victims have had to look over their shoulders in constant fear for their security and that of their families. Lukashenko now knows that wherever he goes he cannot evade justice.”
Matthew Jury, a partner at McCue, said, “Due to the current travel ban on Lukashenka traveling within Europe, there is no possibility at present of him traveling to our jurisdiction here in England. As a result, what we have done — what the people of Belarus have done — [is to make] available a prosecution file.”
He identified the file as “universally available as an open source document for download on the Internet so that private lawyers, nongovernmental organizations, or even governments can file for the arrest of Lukashenka should he travel to their jurisdictions.”
The firm also promises that “[i]f Lukashenko should travel to the U.K. we confirm that we will seek a warrant for his arrest.”
Senior partner Jason McCue stated, “Dictators and rogue regimes have evaded the law for too long. They do this through brutality and jumping through loopholes in sovereign and international law. We have developed a pragmatic solution to fill the gaps. Lukashenko and other would-be dictators around the world had better sit up and pay attention to this precedent. It is to the credit of the people of Belarus that this novel human rights tool has been developed.”
The dossier comes after Belarusian citizens who claimed they were tortured by Lukashenko’s government since the disputed Belarusian election last December approached McCue. Protests began in Belarus shortly after Lukashenko announced he won the election, securing a fourth term in office for himself. Former Belarusian opposition candidate Ales Mikhalevich was detained and compared the detention center in which he was held to a concentration camp.
Earlier this week Andrzej Poczobut, a Polish activist living in Belarus, was banned from exiting the country after allegedly defaming Lukashenko. The ban comes as the Eastern Partnership is set to convene this week in Warsaw to discuss relations with its member countries, including Belarus.
Belarusian rights group Charter’97 welcomes McCue’s efforts. “McCue & Partners represent Lukashenko’s victims, their families, and the campaign group Free Belarus Now that initiated this legal action. Heading a Belarusian/international coalition of leading lawyers, it has prepared a criminal case against him on charges of torture and hostage taking. We would like to see charges brought against Lukashenko in Belarus, but his tight control of state administrative apparatus, including the courts, precludes this from happening. However, Lukashenko has committed crimes, such as torture, that punishable under international law, meaning that any government may seek to prosecute Lukashenko upon these charges under universal jurisdiction. The people of Belarus today invite Lukashenko to submit to the universal jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales or any other E.U. country where a fair trial can be guaranteed.”
The dossier created by McCue is a relatively novel concept. “As far as we are aware, this approach hasn’t been taken before. And really, what our intent is [is] to put the power to bring [trials against] human rights abusers and those who would commit crimes against humanity into the hands of civil society rather than solely in the hands of national governments or international organizations,” Jury said. “By making this prosecution file universally available, we allow the victims themselves to decide where and when they bring a prosecution rather than leaving it in the hands of politicians and diplomats.”
Lukashenko was dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” by the United States and has faced a travel ban from the European Union since last December’s election.
“By preparing this prosecution,” McCue’s website posits, “his victims, their families and international civil society have ensured that impunity with respect to torture and electoral fraud in Europe will not stand in the 21st Century.”
For more information please see:
Polskie Radio — British Lawyers Produce Lukashenko ‘Prosecution Kit’ — 28 September 2011
Charter’97 — Global Prosecution of Europe’s Last Dictator — 27 September 2011
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty — London Law Firm Publishes Torture Dossier Against Belarusian President — 27 September 2011
McCue & Partners — The Prosecution of Alexander Lukashenko, The Last Dictator in Europe