President warns Belarusian leaders of potential Hague court hearings

Hundreds of people gathered to form a human chain in Tallinn to support Belarusians.
Hundreds of people gathered to form a human chain in Tallinn to support Belarusians. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

President Kersti Kaljulaid warned the current leaders of Belarus, who are using violence to suppress peaceful opposition protests, that they could be held responsible at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Netherlands.

The president also expressed concern that Belrus be permitted to act as a sovereign nation from a western perspective, as well as in regard to its eastern neighbor, Russia.

Kaljulaid spoke of the violence directed at opposition protesters in Belarus and how sanctions must be implemented as soon as possible, in an interview with ERR, saying: "It is important that decision-makers in Minsk would understand that the Hague [hearing] is not that far off actually."

The International Court of Justice is based in the Hague, the Netherlands, settling disputes between states in accordance with international law. The Hague court is meant to supplement national court instances in situations where the latter cannot, or do not, act sufficiently.

Kaljulaid noted the role of the Baltic states and Poland in raising the Belarus topic at EU level, but emphasized that ultimately the people of Belarus should decide on the fate of their own country.

The president said: "The people of Belarus must handle it themselves. It is not possible or reasonable to interfere from the outside. And that goes for both east and west."

At the same time, western countries have learned from what has happened before in Georgia and Ukraine, and steps currently taken toward Belarus could be a reason why major hostilities have been avoided there so far, Kaljulaid said.

She added: "We see that noone has taken a decisive step to stop the democratic process of the Belarusian people, and I hope we can move forward without it happening. But this does not mean that sanctions should not be implemented against those certain people who lead these repressions."

Kaljulaid also expressed her opinion that there will be change in Belarus, but the question is whether they are "deeper and more substantive or cosmetic."

She concluded: "I think superficial changes will certainly come. But the future is in the hands of the Belarusian people and the expression of their will."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Andrew Whyte

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