Designate Belarus special police units OMON and GUBOPIK as terrorist organizations
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We reach out to the international community to formally recognize the state-backed violence in Belarus as acts of state terrorism; and call for the special police units responsible for acts of terror, OMON and GUBOPiK, to be included on the list of terrorist organizations.
The aftermath of Presidential elections 2020
At the last presidential elections on 9 August 2020, there is significant evidence that Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was on course of winning elections based on triangulation of the available data and polling of over 1,2 million Belarusian citizens. However, the heavy rigging of votes produced completely fictional results with incumbent president Lukashenko winning over 80% of the votes. The results were so out of sync with the true support for Lukashenko, that it sparked ongoing peaceful protests all over Belarus; now lasting over 100 consecutive days.
In response to peaceful protests, Lukashenko turned to direct, indiscriminate terror towards the general population. The overwhelming and indiscriminate brutality by the police forces has resulted in over 33,000 peaceful protesters being arrested so far, enormous violence with 4 000 formal torture complaints (0 of them investigated), and 8 killed.
This sheer number of cases, including shameless arrests of elderly, women, and disabled; the level of brutality at point of arrest and in custody, as well as regular ostentatious demonstration of heavily beaten and humiliated victims on state TV, are a conscious strategy; one with the aim to create a disempowering sense of fear among the people and force the nation into submission. That IS the definition of terrorism.
Lukashenko has been holding on to power for 26 years. He won first elected in 1994 and had since amended the constitution and voted into power on 5 occasions. However, his hold on power was based on bullying and elimination of political opponents and inconvenient people, total control of the media, and institutionalized electoral fraud at every level. As a result, there was a sense of helplessness and disconnection from political life among the public.
This tactic was effective until recently. Multiple failures of the government to provide welfare for its citizens reached its pinnacle by the denial of the Covid-19 crisis. This was coupled with recent technological innovations which allowed people to self-organize on a large scale to help one another when the government relinquished its responsibilities. All this had an unexpected consequence of making people realize that people who despise Lukashenka were now the majority.
It is not just violence, it is terrorism
«The Geneva Declaration on Terrorism» // UN General Assembly Doc. A/42/307, 29 May 1987, article 1 defines state terrorism as follows:
“state terrorism manifests itself in police State practices against its own people to dominate through fear by surveillance, disruption of group meetings, control of the news media, beatings, torture, false and mass arrests, false charges and rumors, show trials, killings, summary executions”.
Numerous independent organizations including international bodies have already collected a record amount of evidence of indiscriminate violence, torture, and killings of the general population by special police units. A number of official reports have already been published, including OSCE Rapporteur’s Report under the Moscow Mechanism on Alleged Human Rights Violations related to the Presidential Elections of 9 August 2020 in Belarus. It collected evidence of some 500 cases of torture or ill-treatment on the 9-12. August alone, both physical and psychological; each case was well-documented, including testimonies, photographs, and videos.
According to an official report of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, between 9 August and 4 November 2020 there have been 24,300 cases of detention by police following mass demonstrations. By 27 November 2020, this figure has already surpassed 30,000. According to the statistics collected by the initiative 23-34.net around 30% of these people confirm torture at one or several points after being captured.
There have been over 4,000 appeals to the police from those who dared to investigate the facts of violence and torture. So far, not a single investigation against police brutality has been launched. Furthermore, there are numerous reports from people who filed the appeals that they were threatened to withdraw their appeal or that their cases were reviewed to find aggravating circumstances which led to increased fines or even additional imprisonment.
Criminal cases against involved security forces as of 1. December 2020: 0
We call on the international community to formally recognize the situation with state-backed violence in Belarus as acts of state terrorism and include special police units OMON and GUBOPiK, responsible for the physical realization of such acts, to the list of terrorist organizations.
What impact will it have?
A. Support the protest movement and counteract violence
- Direct implications for the special police forces
Every company in the countries where Belarusian special police forces are added to the list of terrorist organizations is prohibited from conducting business with them or other organizations supporting them. While this may not eliminate certain supply chains entirely, some of them can become much more complicated and costlier, both in terms of time and money.
For example, this could complicate purchases of new supplies of ammunition for the police forces, as well as create issues for individual members with getting international credit cards or telecommunication services (several telecom companies in Belarus have international owners).
- Psychological pressure
This will give hope to those who suffered from violence and torture and cannot get justice in the current situation of complete lawlessness, that the perpetrators of committed crimes might one day be persecuted and won’t be able to hide abroad.
This decision will add psychological pressure on the current members of these special police forces, whether by making them re-evaluate the risks and benefits of their continuous membership in the organization or by being questioned by their friends and family.
- Political impact
It will give a clear statement from the democratic countries to the people of Belarus that human rights are to be defended. There is no place for violence and terror against its own peaceful population, and the world community stands for it
B. Impact in the long run
- Preventing the spread of radicals
Individuals who committed crimes against humanity and acts of terrorism in Belarus will be prevented from traveling freely across the borders.
- Ensuring justice
Every current member of OMON and GUBOPiK will be by default considered a suspect in the crimes against humanity and committing acts of state terrorism. This will increase the chances that all those who committed crimes will eventually face the consequences.
KEY INDEPENDENT REPORTS ON VIOLENCE AND TORTURE IN BELARUS
BELARUS AFTER ELECTION Report on the human rights situation in Belarus in the postelection period; prepared by Human Rights Centre "Viasna", the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, and the Belarusian Association of Journalists in cooperation with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and World Organization Against Torture (OMCT):
OSCE Rapporteur’s Report under the Moscow Mechanism on Alleged Human Rights Violations related to the Presidential Elections of 9 August 2020 in Belarus:
Report from 23-34 project on the scale of violence and torture applied to detainees based on the first-hand data collected digitally from the victims:
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