We Will Not Forget: Yury Zakharanka
The Minsk office of the Belarusian Popular Front hosted yesterday an event in memory of Yury Zakharanka, former Minister of Internal Affairs, who disappeared almost 14 years ago. The meeting entitled “We Will Not Forget” was arranged by activists of the Young Christian Democrats.
According to the YCD leader Maryna Khomich, such events in memory of the late or missing Belarusian politicians, public figures, journalists will be continued in the future. In particular, the next action in the campaign “We Will Not Forget” will be dedicated to the disappeared cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski.
The investigation into the case of the missing politicians, which lasted for nearly 14 years, has failed to establish any circumstances of their disappearance, nor those responsible for this. Meanwhile, the statute of limitations on these cases will expire in a year. After 2014, the authorities can in good conscience say that “we have done everything possible, but the bodies of the missing have not been found, and the perpetrators have not been established.”
“Next year, according to the current legislation, expires the statute of limitations on the crimes against Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar and Anatol Krasouski. A year later, they will close and shelve the case of Dzmitry Zavadski. The society is almost out of time to get the authorities to investigate these high-profile cases and find an answer to the question of what happened to these people. So we are starting a nationwide campaign in memory of the disappeared,” says Maryna Khomich.
Human rights defender Aleh Vouchak, representing the family of Yury Zakharanka, sees his own version of future developments: he struggles to have the case of Yury Zakharanka changed to another article of the Criminal Code (Article 128 - a crime against humanity), which is not subject to a statute of limitations. In the meantime, the authorities have ignored such proposals, but human rights activists and representatives of political parties do not stop their efforts. Aleh Vouchak also cited the experience of Argentina, where some 80 former officials and investigators are held criminally liable for failure to act in the cases of the disappeared oppositionists.
The event was also attended by one of the leaders of the BCD Vital Rymasheuski, mother of the disappeared cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski, Volha Zavadskaya, as well as Anatol Astapenka, a friend of Yury Zakharanka, the founder of the Belarusian National Democratic Party.
Participants in the event signed a petition to the General Prosecutor's Office, which was prepared by the human rights activist Hary Pahaniayla.
On 12 February, representatives of a number of political parties, civil society movements and human rights organizations gathered to develop a common tactics that would not allow shelve the case of secret killings of former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka, politician Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski. Officially, their fate is unknown. According to unofficial data, they are victims of a “death squad.”
Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich identifies three main sets of actions: legal action under the domestic laws, international activities, including presentation of complete and accurate information to the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus, Miklos Haraszti, as well as other instruments, including the UN Human Rights Committee; information activities, which should be aimed at working with the community and the public opinion.
The cases of the disappeared Belarusians should not be shelved, either in a year or in ten. For the society, there can be no statute of limitations, even after 15 years, says the human rights defenders.