A Trial Will Be Held in Switzerland Considering the Case of the Enforced Disappearance of Yury Zacharanka, Viktar Hanchar and Anatoly Krasouski

Yuri Harauski, former member of President Alayksandr Lukashenka’s SOBR unit will stand before a criminal court in St. Gallen, Switzerland on 19-20 September 2023. He is accused of having participated in the enforced disappearances of three major political opponents in 1999. The proceeding follows the criminal claims by relatives of two of the victims and is supported by FIDH, TRIAL International and Viasna, which concurrently filed a criminal complaint.

Yuri Harauski will be held to account for the enforced disappearances of Yury Zakharenka, Viktar Hanchar and Anatoly Krasouski, which took place in 1999 in Belarus.

The case is groundbreaking: for the very first time, a Belarusian national stands trial for enforced disappearance on the basis of universal jurisdiction. It is also the first application of the specific provision criminalizing this offense in Switzerland.

The families of the victims made numerous attempts to obtain information on the whereabouts of their relatives. However, law enforcement authorities in Belarus systematically refused to prosecute perpetrators and to hold them accountable. Universal jurisdiction counteracts years of fruitless attempts to obtain justice. “This case marks a decisive step forward in the fight against impunity for the crimes committed in Belarus,” said Severin Walz, the attorney at law representing the victims’ relatives.

“With this first ever prosecution of an alleged member of Lukashenka’s hit squad we are sending a strong signal. Justice for international crimes can and will be delivered, regardless of state borders or time elapsed since the crimes have been committed”, said Pavel Sapelko, lawyer of Viasna. “The principle of universal jurisdiction is becoming firmly and crucially entrenched in our judicial systems. Step by step, we are making impunity impossible for international criminals.”

“This could be a watershed moment for international justice for the Belarusian regime’s crimes,” added Ilya Nuzov, head of FIDH’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Hurauski’s trial might not only secure a conviction for one of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes; it could also establish facts which could later be used to go after those who had ordered the commission of the crime, including Lukashenka himself.”

The complete dysfunction of legal systems in certain countries (Belarus serves as a poignant example) results, among other things, in the inability to access legal remedies at the national level. In such circumstances, it becomes imperative to explore once again the options offered by mechanisms beyond national jurisdictions and the utilization of institutions and tools that facilitate the international prosecution of those responsible for grave crimes. International criminal responsibility is realized through international courts and tribunals and is applied in cases of severe crimes that impact the interests of the global community as a whole. We invite you to familiarize yourself with the material dedicated to the means of pursuing criminal prosecution in situations where national systems have faltered."
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