A former member of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s special security forces is on trial in Switzerland for the forced disappearances of political opponents in the late 1990s.
ByThe Associated Press
September 19, 2023, 5:01 a.m.
GENEVA — A former member of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s special security forces was on trial Tuesday in Switzerland for the forced disappearances of political opponents in the late 1990s, considered a historic case for international justice.
Yuri Harauski, a former member of a military unit known as the SOBR, got out of a van with tinted windows and a hood as he entered the courthouse in the northern city of St. Gallen. country.
Activists said the two-day trial marked a pivotal moment in international justice that could trigger foreign prosecutions of other Belarusian officials, including Lukashenko. The lawsuit was brought under a rarely applied legal principle known as universal jurisdiction, under which foreign courts can prosecute serious crimes committed in other countries.
Harauski will be tried for the forced disappearances of Yuri Zakharenko, former Minister of the Interior dismissed by Lukashenko in 1996; opposition leader Viktor Gonchar; and publisher Anatoly Krasovsky, said Trial International, an advocacy group that led the case.
The accused lives in Switzerland, where he applied for asylum in 2018. He made a highly publicized confession about his involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Lukashenko’s political opponents in 1999. The motives for this confession are not known. completely clear.
An excerpt from the court filing, obtained by The Associated Press, indicated that prosecutors planned to seek a three-year prison sentence – two years suspended – against Harauski for his alleged role in the disappearances.
Lukashenko’s regime has been criticized for years, most recently over the crackdown on opposition leaders that began in August 2020 and support for Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine last year. among others.