The Criminal Court of the Swiss St. Gallen did not recognize the former fighter of the Belarusian Special Rapid Reaction Unit (SOBR) Yuri Garavsky in the forced disappearance of the former Minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus Yuri Zakharenko, the ex-head of the Central Election Commission Viktor Gonchar, as well as Gonchar’s friend, businessman Anatoly Krasovsky. He was also found not guilty of misleading justice. Deutsche Welle reports this with reference to its correspondent from the courtroom.
Garavsky’s case is related to his statements from 2019 about the murders of opponents of Alexander Lukashenko. According to him, in 1999–2003 he participated in the murders of Zakharanka, Gonchar and Krasouski in Minsk. Relatives of the oppositionists believe that they were abducted for political reasons, and suspect that senior Belarusian officials, including Lukashenko himself, are involved in their disappearance.
In 2019, Garavsky came to Switzerland and requested political asylum there. In 2022, he said that a criminal case had been opened against him in Belarus. In September 2023, the Swiss court began to consider the case. According to its laws, the criterion of extraterritoriality can be used, allowing the consideration of crimes that occurred outside the country.
However, Swiss legislation does not allow Garavski to be prosecuted for murder or complicity in it, since the alleged crimes occurred on the territory of Belarus. As a result, the court considered the case under the article “forced disappearance”, which appeared in the Swiss Criminal Code in 2017. The Garavski case was the first case under this article for the country.
According to the publication “Novy Chas”, the judge did not believe Garavsky’s story and considered that there were many contradictions in his testimony. Some testimonies were even considered fictitious. In addition, the judge emphasized that the case is “special” and the government of Belarus is responsible for the disappearances of oppositionists.
The plaintiffs in the case were the daughters of missing oppositionists – Elena Zakharenko and Valeria Krasovskaya. The civil suit they filed for 200 thousand francs ($218.3 thousand) will be transferred to a civil court.