In July 1997 he and ORT reporter Pavel Sheremet were arrested for filming a report about the vulnerability of the Belarus Lithuania state border. Zavadski covered the second Chechen war in 1999.
TV cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski disappeared on 7 July 2000 when he was supposed to meet Pavel Sheremet at the airport in Minsk. He was last seen at the airport shortly before Sheremet’s flight arrived from Moscow and his car was later found locked and parked outside the airport. Like opposition leaders Viktor Gonchar and Yuriy Zakharenko who had disappeared a year earlier, Zavadski received threatening phone calls for several months before his disappearance. Zavadski’s body was never found, but he was officially declared dead three years after his disappearance. Four men were convicted for abduction of Zavadski, two of them sentenced to life in prison, one of them – to 25 years imprisonment, one – to 12 years in prison. The alleged masterminds of this crime were considered to be the former head of the national Security Council, Viktor Sheiman, the then-head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Yuri Sivakov, and a former security officer in the interior ministry, Dmitriy Pavlichenko.
In 2004, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution stating that 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 disappearance.” The Parliamentary Assembly demanded that the Belarusian government conduct an independent investigation into the role of then-General Prosecutor Sheiman, thenMinister of Sports Yuri Sivakov and Dmitriy Pavlichenko. The demand for the authorities to disclose the truth about Zavadsky’s disappearance has been consistently included in resolutions of the UN Human Rights Committee and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
Veranika Charkasava (Veronica Cherkasova)
Correspondent of the Solidarity newspaper, Veranika Charkasava was stabbed at home on October 20, 2004. No money or other valuable goods were missing. Shortly before her death, Charkasova was investigating the alleged arms sales between Belarus and Iraq, as well as a money-laundering scheme. Since the only items missing from her apartment after the murder were pictures she had taken during her trip to Iraq, it is suspected that her death might be related to her investigation into the arms sale. Human rights organisations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Watch, and inter-governmental organisations such as the Council of Europe, have criticised the Belarusian government failing to investigate the murder. In particular, there has never been an investigation into a possible link between her work and the murder, as the focus of the criminal investigation was limited to a domestic dispute – the only suspects were her family members. Now, the case has been suspended, through a failure to identify a suspect.
Before his death, Vasil Hrodnikau worked as a non-staff correspondent of the newspaper Narodnaya Volya. The journalist was found dead in the morning on October 18, 2015 in his private house situated in Zaslaul (near Minsk). The walls in the house were covered with blood; bloodstains were on the walls in many rooms. There were broken window in the kitchen, a stool’s leg was broken, cereals and matches were scattered on the floor. Money and valuables remained in the house.
Forensic medical examination said that V. Hrodnikau had died in the result of craniocerebral injury on the head with a blunt object. In spite of many suspicious facts, the Regional Prosecutor’s Office of Minsk declared that Hrodnikau died in a domestic injury. The Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Belarus supported the decision saying that there was no corpus delicti in the case. Colleagues and relatives who say the place of death said it looked like a crime scene, and criminal investigation should have started. They assume the motive for the alleged death could be a series of reports that the journalist had written before his death.
Aleh Byabenin (Oleg Bebenin)
Founder and editor of the website Charter’97, Aleh Byabenin died under suspicious circumstances. On 3 September 2010, he was found by his brother and his friends hanging from the stairway of his village house outside of Minsk. The authorities claimed that an autopsy established that Byabenin had committed suicide. The investigation stated that no marks of violence were found on the body, which has been contradicted by his family. No suicide note was found. Investigation was prolonged several times, but finally no criminal case was initiated. The invited OSCE experts confirmed the official version, but underlined that they had a possibility only to review the materials of the investigation held by the authorities. The family and friends insist that the death was violent; they emphasized that Byabenin was a member of the electoral team of the candidate Andrei Sannikau. Some journalists who publicly voiced their doubts about the suicide, received threats.
In 2011, BAJ sent a request to the Attorney’s General office and the Ministry of the Interior, asking to resume investigation into the four cases involving journalists. The Attorney General’s Office replied that everything had been investigated and resolved duly, and the Ministry of the Interior said that it was up to the Attorney General to resume investigation.
In 2012, BAJ sent a similar petition to the Investigative Committee. The Investigative Committee answered then that it was beyond its competence because the deaths occurred before January 1, 2012, when the committee started to work.