At the end of September, the news broke that a Swiss court decided to acquit Yury Garavsky. The Belarusian man had confessed his participation in the kidnapping and killing of three political opposition figures in Belarus in 1999. Right before his 2019 confession, he had found refuge in Switzerland, where he was put on trial for the crime of forced disappearance under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
We unravel the journey – a very short one this time around – that took from the confession to the acquittal, with Ana Srovin Coralli and Vony Rambolamanana. Ana is a teaching assistant and PhD candidate at the International Law Department of the Geneva Graduate Institute, while Vony works in International Investigations and Litigation at TRIAL International. TRIAL, together with FIDH and the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna had been supporting two of the three families of the victims in filing a criminal complaint in Switzerland.
In this first case of a Belarusian man in court for enforced disappearance and the first case of this sort to be tried in Switzerland, Vony highlights the good and the less good aspects of this trial. We also ask them about the legalities behind the court decisions and what that means to the victims. Ana shines a light on the specificities of the crime of enforced disappearance and how domestic courts sometimes struggle to fully understand its implications.
For reading and watching Vony suggests the book La Mémoire Délavée by Nathacha Appanah and the documentary Sisters in Law, which sparked her fascination for international justice. Ana recommends a watch on enforced disappearance in Mexico Sin Señas Particulares (Identifying Features) and the movie Burden of Peace. And the book narrating the journey of an Afghan man In The Sea There Are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari by Fabio Geda.