23 January 2018, Tuesday, 17:18

Iryna Krasouskaya: Illegitimate regime of Lukashenka must be punished


The widow of the abducted businessman urges the UN to punish Lukashenka’s regime for tortures and abductions of oppositionists.

Iryna Krasouskaya, the leader of “We Remember” initiative, has taken part (in the hearings “Human Rights in Belarus and Turkmenistan: enforced disappearances and torture”), which have taken part in the UN Office in Geneva recently.

Iryna Krasouskaya delivered a report “Political Disappearances in Belarus”. We offer the full text of the report.

On September 16th it will be 15 years since my husband Anatoly Krasovsky disappeared. It is not possible to believe that this can happen in 21st century in the center of Europe. But it happened to my husband, and it happened to me - 15 years of searching for truth and justice for my husband, my family, and myself. Maybe, this is a short period in world history, but is a huge and intolerable time for families - every day we pass through hope to despair. Every day is filled with emptiness, sadness and grief.

The abduction of my husband was not the first political disappearance in Belarus, and unfortunately not the last one. In May 7th, 1999 Yuri Zakharenko, general and former Interior Minister, leader of opposition Unit of officers, was kidnapped while going home after parking his car. On September 16th, Victor Gonchar, former Vice Speaker of Parliament , former Chairman of Central election committee , and my husband Anatoly Krasovsky, a businessman who financed the opposition, were blocked in their car and taken away by unknown people. On July 7th, 2000 Dmitry Zavadsky, a journalist and former private camera men of Belarusian president was kidnapped on his way to airport.

All these political disappearances happened just before the second presidential election of 2001. This election was to become the turning point for democracy in Belarus. The political killings turned out to be the first step in establishing a dictatorship. Kidnapping and killing the powerful general Zakharenko and the charismatic lawyer Gonchar allowed Lukashenko to monopolize power and turn what was a promising Belarus into the last dictatorship in Europe. Lukashenko has been an illegitimate president for 20 years already. If disappeared politicians were alive, today we could live in completely different Belarus.

On September 16th 1999 , Thursday, my husband and Victor Gonchar left a sauna in the center of Minsk at 10-45 pm, got into their car, which then was blocked by other cars converging from different directions. Next morning we discovered various car fragments, blood stains and skid marks on the asphalt. As we found out from official report later, witnesses observed suspicious activity by a number of young men wearing uniforms.

Evidence of this and other disappearances started to leak in 2000. A copy of handwritten note appeared from The Chief of the Criminal Police of Belarus, General Lapatik, dated 21 November 2000, addressed to the Minister of the Interior, Naumov. In this note, he accused Victor Sheiman (at the time Secretary of the Belarusian Security Council) of having ordered the former Minister of the Interior, Y. Zakharenko, to be physically eliminated. This order was allegedly carried out by SOBR commander Pavlichenko with the assistance of the then Minister of the Interior, Sivakov, who had provided commander Pavlichenko with the PB-9 pistol temporarily removed from SIZO-1 prison. The same weapon, General Lapatik concluded, was used on 16 September 1999, when Gonchar and Krasovski went missing.

Later those facts were confirmed by testimony of former Head of Prison Oleg Alkaev and former investigators Petrushkevich and Sluchak.

The day after General Lapatik’s accusations letter, the main suspect - commander Pavlichenko- was arrested. The arrest warrant signed by the then Chief of the Belarusian KGB, Matskevich and sanctioned by the then Prosecutor General, Bozhelko, reads as follows:

“The materials of the operational investigation contain trustworthy data confirming that Dmitry Vasiliyevich Pavlichenko is the organiser and head of a criminal body engaged in abduction and physical elimination of people. …]”. It was decided to apply a preventive detention for 30 days.

Despite the period of detention indicated in the warrant, commander Pavlichenko was freed in the following days. He was released by special order of President Lukashenko. Chief of KGB and Prosecutor General were dismissed and had to hide in Russia. The main suspect of orchestrating this crime, close ally of Lukashenko Victor Sheiman became a prosecutor general. That was the end of the investigation.

In 2004 , based on investigatory work carried out by the Special Rapporteur Mr Christos Pourgourides and the ad hoc sub-committee, Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe release the Resolution 1371 (2004) “Disappeared persons in Belarus”, which concluded that “ a proper investigation of the disappearances has not been carried out by the competent Belarusian authorities. On the contrary, the information gathered by the rapporteur leads it to believe that steps were taken at the highest level of the state to actively cover up the true circumstances of the disappearances, and to suspect that senior officials of the state may themselves be involved in these disappearances”.

In the report concluded that “… it hard to believe that the above could have taken place without the knowledge of the President”.

In 2004, those four high ranking officials suspected in organizing disappearances of political opponents and mentioned in the Report were put on visa ban lists in EU, USA, Canada and many other countries. In 2006, Lukashenka was added to this sanctions list.

Today, every three months the Investigation Committee of Belarus sends me and other relatives a short letter saying that the time of investigations has again been prolonged for another three months. This has been going on already for 15 years. The authorities in Belarus are waiting for the 15-year statute of limitations under Belarusian Law when they can close the case.

For those 15 years we, relatives, tried all possible mechanisms to find the truth. My daughter and I won the case against Belarus in UN HRC established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In April 2012 The Human Rights Committee concluded that Belarus had violated its obligation to investigate properly and take appropriate remedial action regarding Mr. Krasovsky’s disappearance (violations of article 2, paragraph 3, read in conjunction with articles 6 and 7 of the Covenant.) HRC requested Belarus to provide the victims with an effective remedy, which should include a thorough and diligent investigation of the facts, the prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators, adequate information about the results of its inquiries, and adequate compensation to the authors. The State party should also take measures to ensure that such violations do not recur in the future.

The Belarus response was that “… under the Optional Protocol the State Parties have no obligations on the recognition of the Committee’s rules of procedure and its interpretation of the Protocol’s provisions, which could only be efficient when done in accordance with Vienna Convention on the Law Treaties (1969). Any communication registered in violation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant and Political Rights will be viewed by the State Party as incompatible with the Protocol and will be rejected without comments on the admissibility on the merits. Decision that may be taken by Human Rights Committee on such declined communications will be considered by the State Party’s competent authorities as invalid”.

This means that not one single judgment of UN HRC under ICCPR won by citizens against Belarus was acted on by the Belarus state.

I am fighting for the truth about disappearance of my husband and other people in Belarus for 15 years. For all these years we secured numerous decisions, requests, and demands from international organizations, Parliaments, Presidents of different countries to investigate the cases. We still do not have the result, even there are confirmed facts, because there is no political will from Belarus authority, especially from President, to investigate their own crimes.

Today I want to ask UN officials : is there any possibility to push Belarus as member of the UN to fulfil the obligations that Belarus undertook? How many years do we have to wait until UN will react to the fact that Belarus has refused to implement UN decisions? Is there any penalty, sanction, or other measure that will force Belarus to stop violating the Human Rights of their own citizens? For how many years can democratic Europe and free world tolerate torture, disappearances and other HR violations in the center of Europe?

Belarus authorities must remember that all dictatorships end sooner or later and that there is no statute of limitations for the crime of disappearances.

We have a hope that one day Belarus will sign and ratify UN Convention against Disappearances. Justice will come and perpetrators will be punished.

People in Belarus will learn the truth about disappearances of Yuri Zakharenko, Victor Gonchar, Anataly Krasovsky, Dmitry Zavadsky. Without justice there will not be a future for free and independent Belarus.

I hope that one day we can find the graves of our beloved. We can bring them flowers and finally say: Forgive us.