15th Anniversary of Unsolved Disappearances in Belarus

Press Statement
Marie Harf
Deputy Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 16, 2014

Fifteen years ago today, Viktor Gonchar, a former deputy prime minister and leading opposition politician, disappeared in Belarus together with Anatoly Krasovsky, a successful businessman. The two men were last seen driving home from a sauna before their reported abduction; their bodies have never been found.

They risked their lives and bright futures to stand up to repression. Their disappearances are a great loss, not only for their loved ones, but for the Belarusian people. Were they with us today, Viktor Gonchar would have just turned 56 and Anatoly Krasovsky would be 62.

We also remember today Yuri Zakharenko, a former Minister of the Interior who resigned to protest government abuses and then disappeared on May 7, 1999, and Dmitri Zavadski, a cameraman for the Russian TV channel ORT who disappeared on July 7, 2000 shortly after returning from filming a documentary in Chechnya.

The government-led investigation into their disappearances has so far produced no substantive results and no closure for their families. Under Belarusian law, the statute of limitations on the investigation of these disappearances appears set to expire this year.

We remain deeply concerned with the fate of these four men and call on the Belarusian authorities to extend the statute of limitations and thoroughly and transparently investigate their disappearances. The families of the disappeared deserve justice.

We renew our call on Belarus to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and restore their political rights. It is our firm belief that Belarus’ future can only be brighter, more stable and more prosperous with a more open society and greater democratization.