Amnesty International calls on Lukashenka to stop executions

2009 2009-12-16T17:50:27+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en
Amnesty International

Amnesty International

Andrei Zhuk and Vasily Yuzepchuk are currently awaiting execution in Minsk. Their appeals have been turned down. 

Both men have applied for clemency to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka - but Amnesty International knows of only one case in which clemency was granted since President Lukashenka took office in 1994. 

Andrei Zhuk was convicted of armed assault and the murder of a man and woman in February 2009. Vasily Yuzepchuk was found guilty in June 2009 of murdering six elderly women in the Grodno region.

The date for their execution will be set by the Director of the Remand Prison in Minsk, where they share a cell. Neither they nor their families will be informed of the date in advance. 

Amnesty International understands that when the time comes, they will be taken to a room and told their appeal for clemency has been turned down. They will then be taken to a neighbouring room, forced to their knees and shot in the back of the head.

Andrei Zhuk’s mother, Svetlana Zhuk has written to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka asking for clemency on behalf of her son. 

In her letter she writes that the death sentence confirmed by the Supreme Court on 27 October was handed down “not just to Andrei, but to all his family". 

"Our life has become a nightmare," she writes. "We fall asleep and wake in a cold sweat; we shudder at every phone call and every sound. We are tired of the whispering behind our backs ‘There goes the Mother (father, brother) of a killer’”. 

Svetlana Zhuk asked guards at the prison whether she would be able to once more hold her son in her arms, but was told that all their meetings must take place behind a glass screen, through a telephone. 

The use of the death penalty in Belarus is compounded by a flawed criminal justice system that applies capital punishment in a manner violating international laws and standards pertaining to the death penalty. There is credible evidence that torture and ill-treatment are used to extract "confessions". 

Andrei Zhuk's lawyer says there were procedural violations during his client's initial interrogation. He has also cited the influence of the Belarus media, plus a statement by the Minister of Internal Affairs referring to Andrei Zhuk and his accomplices as "criminals" before they had been convicted, which violates the right to presumption of innocence. 

Vasily Yuzepchuk belongs to the marginalized Roma group. He may have an intellectual disability and his lawyer has stated that he is illiterate. Vasily Yuzepchuk has alleged that he was beaten while in pre-trial detention on two separate occasions. 

Both men have applied to the UN Human Rights Committee, which called on the Belarusian government not to execute the men until the Committee has considered their cases. 
Belarus is the last country in Europe still carrying out death sentences. Amnesty International estimates that as many as 400 people may have been executed since Belarus gained its independence in 1991. 

The whole process is shrouded in secrecy; there are no official statistics for the number of executions, the body is not handed over to the family and the place of burial is kept secret.