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Pre-trial investigation launched into possible torture of a person in a foreign state 

Informacija atnaujinta: 2020-12-18 10:35

Pre-trial investigation launched into possible torture of a person in a foreign state 

9 December, 2020 Vilnius

Today, Prosecutor General Mr Evaldas Pašilis has launched a pre-trial investigation on the basis of Article 1003(1) “Torture” of Chapter XV “Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes” of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania.

This procedural decision has been passed after the detailed examination of the statement lodged to the Prosecutor General’s Office on 30 November this year by a citizen of Belarus M. CH. who is currently staying in Lithuania, regarding the violence suffered by him on 13 October this year in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus.

The circumstances of the event specified by the applicant and the initial documents submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office have been admitted as containing the elements of the crime which is subject to universal jurisdiction under the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania.

Universal jurisdiction means that criminal liability for the crimes provided for by international treaties applies regardless of the nationality of victims and suspects, the place of commission of the crime and whether this is punishable by the law of the state where the crime was committed. In Lithuania, such crimes also include torture of a person as one of the crimes against humanity.

“The nationality held by each person determines the specific nature of his relationship with his own and other states. Some states guarantee broad individual rights and freedoms to their citizens, while others tend to purposefully narrow the limits of democracy that are common to us. The world is highly diverse. Nevertheless, regardless of our nationality, we all have the equal right to life and dignity and the right to receive assistance from other states if such fundamental rights of ours have been grossly violated. The international community unanimously agrees on the necessity and importance of universal jurisdiction for the protection of fundamental human rights and prevention and suppression of serious transnational crime, however, such cases are still rare and raise many legal issues. Therefore, I understand that this pre-trial investigation will be extremely complex, closely monitored by everybody and no one can really say today when and how it will end. However, if we treat human rights as the fundamental value, we have only one right solution in this situation - to collect by legal means and to record in the proper procedure as much data of evidential value as possible so that they could be used in the trial regardless of when and where it takes place. Our own history also obliges us not to remain passive”, said Prosecutor General Mr Evaldas Pašilis when commenting his decision to launch the pre-trial investigation.

The citizen of Belarus who requests institution of a pre-trial investigation under the abovementioned Article of the Criminal Code, claims that on 13 October this year, in Minsk, he suffered an unexpected attack and torture which, in his view, were committed by the officers of the force structures loyal to Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s regime. The statement says that other citizens of Belarus who protest against the falsified results of election of the head of the state, also suffer from the violence and torture of the said structures. M. CH. also claims that he was forced to come to Vilnius for fear of his safety and was unable for this reason to defend his rights in Belarus.

In order to prove the said crime in court, the pre-trial investigation must collected the data that the torture was committed on behalf of the state. It is also possible that the verification of all circumstances specified by the applicant will also provide the data about other potential victims.

The said pre-trial investigation is organised, controlled and led by the Department of Criminal Prosecutions of the Prosecutor General’s Office, and the investigation actions are performed by the Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau.

Article 1003 (1) “Torture” of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania lays down that a person who, while pursuing the state policy or while acting with the permission, instigation, support or approval of the state, tortures another person or subjects another person to any other especially cruel treatment by causing strong physical or mental pain or suffering to the victim, is punishable by imprisonment for a term of up to five years. If a person accused with the commission of this crime is absconding from justice, the trial may be conducted in the absence of the person put on trial.

 

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