British lawyers seek to snare Belarus' Lukashenko

27th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A British law firm launched a bid Tuesday to encourage private prosecutions against Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko for alleged crimes against humanity.

London-based McCue and Partners have created a prosecution "kit" of evidence against Lukashenko -- once dubbed by the United States as Europe's last dictator -- so that lawyers abroad can start proceedings should he travel to their jurisdictions.

Jason McCue, one of the firm's senior partners, told AFP: "What we've done is created a prosecution file kit, in simple words, which is everything you need -- all the evidence, all the prosecution pleadings to start a private or a public prosecution against Lukashenko and some of the senior members of his regime."

Lukashenko is subject to a European Union travel ban because of concerns over his regime's human rights record, and he rarely ventures abroad.

McCue, whose firm has used international jurisdictions to pursue individuals and groups such as deposed Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, claimed the action would leave Lukashenko further isolated.

"A president who cannot leave his country is no longer a president and his people will start to question that -- if they have a leader that can't travel internationally. Before Lukashenko wouldn't travel. Now he can't," he said.

The British lawyers have been hired by relatives of victims of Lukashenko's regime, who have helped to compile the dossier of evidence against the president.

Irina Bogdanova, the London-based sister of detained political opponent Andrei Sannikov and director of the Free Belarus Now group, said: "Like many Belarussians, members of my family have been persecuted and tortured at the hands of Lukashenko's regime. This continues as we speak."

McCue said credit should be given to the victims of the regime for their help in compiling the evidence "for what is a completely new tool in the armoury of human rights around the world."

"It may be a team of international lawyers that have thought through the process but the credit for this goes to the Belarus victims and the Belarus people," he said.

Lukashenko won highly controversial presidential polls in December and has overseen a crackdown on opposition groups and independent media, which has included sentencing dozens of protestors and former presidential candidates to lengthy prison terms.

© 2011 AFP

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