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Human rights defenders: main death penalty issue in Belarus is lack of independent judiciary

13.10.2016  |  Society
Human rights defenders: main death penalty issue in Belarus is lack of independent judiciary

​​​​​​​Death penalty has been performed nearly 400 times in our country Since 1991. This year alone, three people were sentenced to death and one was executed by shooting.

Week against the Death Penalty is held in Belarus during October 5-10. The  International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its partner organization in Belarus Human Rights Center “Viasna” presented a joint report “Death Penalty in Belarus: Murder on (Un)Lawful Grounds”  as one of the Week’s events.

"Anyone can make a mistake"

- The main argument against the death penalty is that it cannot be overturned. Anyone can make a mistake: judge, policeman, prosecutor. We are all human beings, we can all make mistakes, but if we implement  the death penalty this mistake cannot be corrected, - stated Jim Couzens, Deputy Head of European Union’s Mission in Belarus. 

- I hope that Belarus will join the European Union and the CIS countries and declare a moratorium on death penalty or even abolish it, - shared the Deputy Head of European Union’s Mission in Belarus.  

He also stressed that after the international conference "Death Penalty: overcoming the differences", which was held in Minsk on March 10, 2016 it has become possible to discuss this topic with the Belarusian authorities and civil society. However the dialogue with Belarusian authorities did not lead to any solid agreement so far. But Stavros Lambrinidis, EU Special Representative for Human Rights discussed the death penalty issue with and Alexander Lukashenko – and "this is something new," Jim Couzens said.

"Why does judiciary makes a person act like a dog?"

Florence Bellivier, Professor of Law, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, former president of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty noted that, on the one hand, Belarus represents a serious concern as the only country in Europe and the former Soviet Union region that keeps the death penalty and implements the verdicts. And on the other hand there is a big hope that Belarus has the mechanisms to abolish the death penalty.

According to Florence Bellivier perhaps article 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus can become such a mechanism, as well as civil society never tired to talk about the death penalty in different cities of Europe.

- A state cannot maintain the death penalty and expect that it will not cause international condemnation - Florence Bellivier added.

She stressed that through maintaining the death penalty Belarus violates a number of its obligations, as well as human rights: the right to life, the right to information about and from the convicted person, the right to a fair trial at all stages, the right to appeal, and the prohibition on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in particular.

There are violations in the cases of those sentenced to death right from the beginning of investigation
Sasha Koulaeva
, FIDH’s Head of Eastern Europe/Central Asia Desk talked about how the International Federation Mission was progressing. The Mission started in June and ended just on October the 4th.

- The Mission was over for us when we were present at the meeting of the Supreme Court, where yet another death sentence was uphold. A horrifying ritual, which is horrible to witness.
During the mission, the experts concluded that there are violations in the cases of those sentenced to death right from the beginning to the end of the investigation.
- The main issue that puts everything into question is lack of independent judiciary system - claimed Sasha Koulaeva.

One of the most important problematic points in death penalty cases remains access to the information. Data is not available to the convicted person, who learns they are to be executed and that they were denied clemency just before the actual execution by shooting, which leads to psychological torture during waiting for the execution to start. Relatives of the convicted person who by the way are often denied in their right of correspondence also know nothing.

Furthermore the information on death sentences is not available to society, all the information that human rights defenders manage to gather is fragmentary, incomplete and not sufficiently precise.

- We make every effort for the issue the death penalty to become history. And this report is one of the tools to make the information reach our citizens and authorities as quickly as possible - Andrei Paluda, coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus” said.

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