Relatives of the involuntary disappeared Belarusians sent an open letter to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Rapporteur on Belarus Mr. Andrea Rigoni, who is visiting Belarus 24-26 February.
In their letter they asked the Rapporteur to rise this issue of the involuntary disappearances of the four men with the Belarusian authorities.The Mr.Rigoni representative Silvia Arzilli (Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy) replied that "Mr Rigoni is well aware of PACE Resolution 1371 (2004) [Disappeared Persons in Belarus] and of the current situation[…] this issue will be taken into account during the visit as well as in the forthcoming report for the Parliamentary Assembly."
Please see text of the letter below:
To: Special PACE Rapporteur on Belarus Mr. Andrea Rigoni
February 19, 2015
Dear Mr. Rigoni,
Knowing that you are going to visit Minsk on February 24-26, we would like to remind you about the continuing human rights violations in Belarus. For many years, the two main conditions for improving relations between the European Union and Belarus were the release of all political prisoners and a proper investigation of political disappearances.
Four prominent politicians and activists disappeared in Belarus just before the second presidential election in 2001: Yuri Zakharenko, former Interior Minister; Victor Gonchar, former Vice Speaker of Parliament; Anatoly Krasovsky, a businessman who financed the opposition; and Dmitry Zavadsky, a journalist.
In 2004 , based on investigatory work carried out by the Special Rapporteur Christos Pourgourides of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, Resolution 1371 (2004) “Disappeared persons in Belarus”concluded :
“[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……… it [is] hard to believe that the above could have taken place without the knowledge of the President.”
In 2004, four high ranking officials suspected in organizing disappearances of political opponents and mentioned in the Report were put on visa ban lists in the European Union, United States, and Canada. In 2006, Lukashenka was added to these sanctions lists.
Despite numerous resolutions of international organizations including the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union demanding an investigation of these cases, the Government of Belarus continues to ignore these demands.
Mr. Rigoni, during your upcoming visit to Minsk we would like to ask you to raise the question of fulfilling the demands of the Parliamentary Assemble of the Council of Europe ,especially resolution 1371 (2004), decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee and other international institutions to investigate the cases of political disappearances in Belarus as well as to release all political prisoners.
We also would like to ask you as a PACE Special Reporter on Belarus to remind Belarus authorities that respect for Human Rights remains the precondition for normalizing relations with the European Union and the rest of the democratic world. Without justice for political prisoners and the disappeared there will not be a future for free and independent Belarus.