Belarusians file case in Germany against Lukashenko regime

A group of ten Belarusians has filed a criminal complaint in Germany against President Alexander Lukashenko and members of his regime for crimes against humanity, lawyers representing them said Wednesday.

Belarusians file case in Germany against Lukashenko regime
Alexander Lukashenko. credit: dpa | Tatyana Zenkovich

Acting on behalf of “torture victims”, the lawyers have submitted a complaint to federal prosecutors in the city of Karlsruhe against Lukashenko “and other Belarusian security officers”, they said in a statement.

The federal prosecutor’s office confirmed to AFP that it had received the complaint.

Lawyers Mark Lupschitz, Onur Ozata, Roland Krause and Benedikt Lux said they had documented more than 100 examples of “violence, systematic torture and other abuses” during the government crackdown on protests against alleged electoral fraud since August 2020.

“The incumbent government is severely oppressing its own population with a crackdown including arbitrary arrests, politically motivated criminal persecution and other forms of repression,” they said.

The lawyers added that the plaintiffs had all been imprisoned and reported instances of “spurious arrests, torture and abuse” while they were held.

“Furthermore, they were held in much too small cells or transport vehicles, and were physically abused, humiliated, threatened, insulted and degraded in other ways,” they said.

The case is being brought on the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity, including war crimes and genocide, regardless of where they were committed.

The German government had said in February it was ready to host 50 opponents of Lukashenko after months of protests were met with harsh crackdowns by the regime.

Lukashenko claimed victory for a sixth term in August elections that were widely criticised internationally and by the opposition as fraudulent.

State authorities responded to weeks of mass protests with force and have sentenced hundreds of people to lengthy jail terms. Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who says she won the vote, fled abroad.

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UPDATE: Germany-Russia flights resume after tit-for-tat cancellations

Airline companies said flights between Germany and Russia had resumed Wednesday evening, after each country blocked the other's incoming flights as part of the fall-out from tensions over Belarus.

UPDATE: Germany-Russia flights resume after tit-for-tat cancellations
Lufthansa flights await takeoff at Munich Airport. Photo: Christof Stache/AFP

German airline Lufthansa told AFP that the Russian authorities had finally granted it clearance for passenger flights to Russia in June.

“That means Lufthansa flights to Moscow and Saint Petersburg can be operated as planned,” said a spokeswoman for the airline.

In Russia, Mikhail Poluboyarinov, chief executive of Aeroflot told the TASS news agency: “Everything is fine, we have received all the authorisations.”

And another Russian airline, S7, said it too had received clearance for its flights to Germany, the Ria Novosti agency reported.

Earlier Wednesday, Germany’s transport ministry said it had blocked flights operated by Russian airlines from arriving in its territory after Moscow failed to provide authorisations for Lufthansa.

Two Russia-bound Lufthansa flights due to depart earlier Wednesday from Germany had been cancelled because Russian authorities did not provide the necessary permits for them in time, the ministry said.

“Due to the reciprocal practice, the Federal Aviation Authority also did not issue any further permits for flights operated by Russian airlines as long as authorisations are pending on the Russian side,” it added.

Three Aeroflot flights were affected by the cancellations on Tuesday and another four on Wednesday, the ministry said.

“Once permits for Lufthansa flights are granted by the Russian site, the flights of Russian airlines will also be authorised,” it added.

Previous cancellations

Neither the ministry nor the airlines concerned mentioned the reason for the flights being blocked.

But some flights operated by European airlines including Air France and Austrian Airlines — a subsidiary of Lufthansa — were cancelled last week after Moscow rejected flight plans that would have skipped Belarusian airspace.

Lufthansa has confirmed that it is no longer flying over Belarus after the EU urged airlines to avoid the country’s airspace.

READ ALSO: Germany summons Belarus envoy over forced Ryanair landing

The EU’s advice came after the Belarusian regime forced the diversion of a Ryanair Athens-Vilnius plane to Minsk in order to arrest an opposition journalist on board.

Moscow last week said the cancellation of several European flights to Moscow was down to “technical reasons”.

Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic control in the EU, said flights between Europe and Russia “have permission to use defined air corridors.

“If one company changes these routes, there has to be prior agreement between the company concerned and Russia.”