Lithuania's Prosecutor General Evaldas Pašilis has launched a pre-trial investigation into crimes against humanity under a complaint by a Belarusian citizen.
"The claimant's stated circumstances of the event and other initial data presented to the prosecution service have been assessed as having signs of a crime under universal jurisdiction under the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania," the prosecution service said in a statement.
Maxim Khoroshin, a Belarusian citizen, turned to Lithuanian prosecutors on November 30 over violence he was subjected to by the police in Minsk and asking to recognise it as a crime against humanity.
Read more: Belarusian torture victim asks Lithuania to launch probe into regime violence
After fleeing to Vilnius, he announced during a press conference on November 27 that three vehicles with 12 masked men came to his home in Minsk and took him away. He was then severely beaten.
In Vilnius, he said he still received threatening calls. In a statement filed with the Lithuanian law enforcement, Khoroshin said the person who beat him may have been Nikolay Karpenkov, the head of the Main Directorate for Combating Organised Crime and Corruption at the Belarusian Interior Ministry (GUBOPIK).
According to the Lithuanian prosecutors, universal jurisdiction means that crimes that are defined by international treaties apply irrespective of citizenship of the victim or the alleged perpetrator.
Lithuania's outgoing Prosecutor General Evaldas Pašilis, who made the decision to launch the pre-trial investigation, underlined that everyone can receive assistance from other countries if their rights were violated.
"The international community unanimously agrees on the need for universal jurisdiction and its importance for defending fundamental human rights and stopping and preventing serious international crimes,” he said.
“But such cases are rare and raise many legal questions. Therefore, I understand that this pre-trial investigation will be very complicated, closely watched, and truly nobody can say today when and how it will end," added Pašilis.
The prosecutors will have to “use legal ways to collect and properly record” documents and evidence “whenever and wherever”, according to Pašilis.
The prosecution service has not ruled out that information on other victims might also be collected during the probe.
Lithuania's Acting Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius welcomed the move, tweeting that "crimes against humanity have universal jurisdiction and perpetrators must and will be kept accountable".
The pre-trial investigation is headed by the Prosecutor General's Office's Department for Criminal Prosecution, and is being carried out by officers from the Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau.
Under the country’s laws, a person who tortures someone on behalf of a state, or by supporting a state, and thus inflicts physical or psychological suffering can be punished by up to life in prison.