Former Member of Belarusian Death Squad to Go on Trial in Switzerland

A former member of an elite Belarusian police unit will tried in Switzerland next month, accused of participating in the disappearance of three members of the political opposition, a Swiss NGO said on Wednesday.
Gallen, Switzerland September 19-20,” said the organization TRIAL International, which fights against impunity for war crimes.
The regional authority in the northeastern region of Switzerland, St. Gallen, confirmed that Garavsky’s trial will begin on September 19. However, Switzerland has yet to comment on his whereabouts or other details regarding the case.

According to TRIAL, he is accuse of taking part in the enforced disappearance of three of Lukashenko’s main political opponents in 1999: former interior minister Yury Zakharenko, along with former deputy prime minister Viktor Gonchar and his close friend, businessman Anatoly Krasovsky.
Zakharenko disappeared in May 1999. Then in September that year, former MP Gonchar and his friend, businessman Krasovsky were kidnappe.
In 2019, Garavsky gave sensational testimony to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. He stated that he had been part of the SOBR special forces team of the Belarusian Interior Ministry, which he said executed the three men. Gallen, TRIAL, together with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Belarusian rights group Viasna filed a criminal complaint with the regional prosecutor.

The victim’s family filed a separate complaint the same day.

In a statement, TRIAL described the case as “breakthrough.” This marks the first time a Belarusian citizen has tried for enforced disappearance under so called universal jurisdiction, which allows the prosecution of certain serious crimes, regardless of where they occurre.
This also marks the first time the alleg offenses have been tried in Switzerland, the statement said.

“With the first prosecution of the suspected member of the Lukashenko hit squad. We are sending a strong signal,” Viasna’s lawyer Pavel Sapelko said in a statement. Viasna is a prominent NGO target the Lukashenko regime and the group’s founder. Nobel peace prize winner Ales Bialiatski, is imprisoned in Belarus. “This case marks a decisive step forward in the fight against impunity for crimes committed in Belarus,” Severin Walz, a lawyer representing the victims’ families, said in the statement.

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