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Content updated: 11-11-2020 11:20

Dainius Žalimas: there can be no impunity for international crimes


The President of the Constitutional Court, Dainius Žalimas, participated in an online forum “Belarus 2020: Scientific and practical challenges in application of the principle of universal jurisdiction”. It was organised by the Centre of the Constitutionalism and Human Rights of the European Humanities University and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and it was attended by leading international humanitarian law scholars and defenders of human rights in Belarus.

The participants of the forum addressed challenges in the application of the principle of universal jurisdiction in Belarus: when is this principle applied? Which country can apply this principle and initiate proceedings? Is its application in line with international human rights standards? What are the possible procedural difficulties?

Congratulating the participants of the forum, the President of the Constitutional Court, Dainius Žalimas, emphasised that, when it comes to international crimes, the principle of the inevitability of punishment for these most serious crimes is very important for the rule of law.

“The conditions must not be created for avoiding punishment for international crimes, including those currently committed in Belarus. I mean crimes against humanity, i.e. mass torture and mass persecution for political reasons against the Belarusian people who defend the rule of law and democracy. Universal jurisdiction is based on mandatory international legal norms defining international crimes as crimes against the entire international community and, thus, against the whole of humanity.  Liability for them arises irrespective of whether the law of the state in which the crimes are committed provides for relevant criminal liability. The international community has assumed the obligation to persecute the persons who commit these crimes. Therefore, universal jurisdiction can be a viable and effective instrument to prevent impunity, as well as an instrument for the prevention of international crimes”, said Dainius Žalimas. 

According to the organisers of the forum, the Belarusian crisis has attracted the attention of legal practitioners and scholars to the universal jurisdiction principle. In the opinion of the organisers, Belarus was one of the countries expressing support to universal jurisdiction. Therefore, today it needs support from other countries to ensure justice and to persecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity in this country at international level.

“Such discussions are welcomed that are initiated by the lawyers who not only take a formal view of the rule of law but are also convinced that, under the principle of the rule of law, universal democratic values, the most important of which are respect for human life and dignity, must be protected first. Although, at present, it may seem that the initiators of the application of universal jurisdiction belong to the minority of lawyers, we should remember that an active minority is always the engine of progress in society”, emphasised Dainius Žalimas congratulating the participants of the forum.