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Andrei Paluda: It seems the state "cleans the territory" before the referendum on the death penalty

09.12.2016  |  Society   |  Piotr Kuchta,  EuroBelarus
Andrei Paluda: It seems the state "cleans the territory" before the referendum on the death penalty

Why amid the negotiations with Europe the Belarusian authorities have decided to immediately perform three executions at once.

In late November a piece of information was released that, according to human rights defenders, three people - Henadz Yakavitski, Ivan Kulesh and Siarhei Khmialeuski were executed in prison in Valadarski street on one day – November 5. But the relatives of the convicted learned about the execution much later, at the end of November.

Andrei Paluda, coordinator of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus” notes in his conversation with the “EuroBelarus” Information Service that it was on purpose that the state delayed notifying the families about the executions.

 - I think the unwillingness to notify the families of the convicts is related to the fact that at that time a high level delegation of the European Union was in Belarus.

- But the issue of the death penalty or at least a moratorium is one of the main barriers to further improvement in the relations between Minsk and the EU. Why to perform executions when the relations with the West are getting better?

- There are several opinions on this. No matter how strange it sounds, but maybe these executions served Belarus to strengthen its position in the negotiations with Europe.

We also can’t exclude the possibility that the Belarusian authorities "clean" the corridor of death this way. That is, when deciding on a moratorium on the death penalty there will be none of those convicted previously, the jail will be empty. It can happen so that the issues of moratorium or the abolishment of the death penalty will be put to a referendum.

And there is still a possibility that the government has no special moves or preparations made. It can be as simple as that it was the term of those three, so they were executed.

- Do human rights activists communicate with the authorities on the issue of abolishing the death penalty?

- We communicate when it’s necessary and possible. But I am sure that nothing depends on the opinions of the officials. I believe the decision will be made by the one well-known person in Belarus. While the officials repeat in quite a familiar way that in the end we will reach a moratorium or the abolishment of the death penalty, we hope that it will happen in the nearest future. Death penalty has negative influence on our society, making it even more cruel.

- Let's go back to a possible referendum. You talked about the cruel character of the Belarusian society, does it make the result of the referendum predictable?

 - The majority in our society would still vote in favor of capital punishment if the guilt is proved 100%, if the court is completely fair, all sorts of "ifs". Therefore, a lot will depend on the question wording formulated in a referendum. If you ask the human rights activists, my colleagues and I believe that the issue of death penalty should not be decided in a referendum. It must be the political will of the representatives of the current Belarusian government. Generally, death penalty does not end with the execution of the convicted person. We work with the relatives of those sentenced to death. It is very difficult. We observe that the state provides them with no assistance at all, there are no programs of psychological support or adaptation. The government believes that it satisfied the victim's relatives’ desire and washes hands, with, if I may say, blood. The state has no further interest in the fate of relatives on both sides.

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