VIENNA, 23 November 2010 - Today independent experts tasked by the OSCE completed an assessment of the ongoing investigation into the death of the Belarusian journalist Aleh Byabenin.
The review of the investigation is in response to a request made by the Belarusian authorities. The experts were asked to review all existing evidence and materials concerning the death.
The OSCE was asked to provide a technical assessment, not a full inquiry into this tragic death. The experts performed their tasks strictly within their mandate and produced an independent report.
The two experts, from Sweden and Norway, have over 30 years of investigative experience in forensic science and medicine. Their technical assessment is below.
Technical assessment of the investigation into the death
of the Belarusian journalist Aleh Byabenin
Following a request made by the Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Belarus in the OSCE Permanent Council on 16 September 2010 to deploy forensic experts to Minsk to review existing case material relating to the death of the Belarusian journalist Aleh Byabenin, the OSCE arranged for and financed the deployment of two independent forensic experts to undertake the task. The request did not call for a new inquiry, but only a technical evaluation and review of the existing case material.
The experts from Sweden and Norway were selected based on their vast experience. They have each over 30 years of investigative experience in forensic science and medicine. The Professor and Detective Superintendent were deployed under agreed specific terms of reference prepared by the OSCE that ensured their independence and objectivity. The experts carried out their duties in Minsk independently of the Belarusian authorities and structures, receiving full co-operation as and when required.
Their terms of reference required them to review and examine all relevant evidence, photographs and documentation in a confidential manner, in order to reach conclusions on the facts related to the death of Mr. Aleh Byabenin. These terms did not call for a new investigation but requested a critical evaluation of the existing case material and information available.
The experts arrived in Minsk on the 25 October and conducted the necessary work in Belarus, returning to Stockholm and Oslo respectively to complete their evaluation. They were able to take home with them an electronic version of both the translated files and the photographs from the death scene and autopsy. This enabled them to continue their examinations and analysis in their respective home countries. The experts indicated that their time in Minsk and subsequent time at home for further examination was sufficient to evaluate the case.
Review and Examination
In Minsk, all the relevant investigation material for evaluation was made available to the satisfaction of the experts. The official documents were completely translated from Russian into English by an independently contracted OSCE translator prior to the arrival of the experts.
The experts reviewed and examined all relevant documentation and photographs along with relevant evidence from the scene and the examination of the pathologist's "post mortem" of Mr. Aleh Byabenin. After examination of this information they visited the scene of the death, met with relatives, friends and colleagues and spoke to witnesses connected to the scene. All interviews deemed relevant to complete their evaluations and conclusions were conducted by the experts. They were able to meet freely with all persons that they requested to see.
The scene examination as it is documented, the items seized at the scene, the results of the examinations and analyses of the seized material give no reason for questioning the documented results and conclusions.
The experts' evaluation noted some specific areas of possible further technical analysis that relevant Belarusian authorities may consider.
Statements given in interviews documented in the case file, including those with relatives, friends and colleagues, did not provide any additional facts or evidence.
In the view of the experts, the autopsy finding and the findings on the scene clearly point to the cause and manner of death being suicide by hanging.
The experts' evaluation and analysis is that, on the basis of all the evidence and information available to them, the cause and manner of death was suicide by hanging. In the experts' view, there is no reason to believe that Mr. Byabenin was hanged after death.