Human rights defender Tamara Chikunova voices concern over retention of death penalty in Belarus
In the beginning of February, Tamara Chikunova, a well-known advocate of the death penalty abolition in Uzbekistan, paid a visit to Belarus. During a meeting with members of the HRC Viasna she told them about the problems one can face while defending the right to life. Chairperson of the Mothers against Death Penalty and Torture NGO also expressed her concern over the retention of the death penalty in Belarus and stated her wish to facilitate its final abolition.
This woman had a hard fate. She lived in Belarus for several years. Then her family moved to Uzbekistan, where a tragedy happened.
On 10 July 2000 her son Dmitrii was charged with killing two people. The court ignored the arguments of the defense. The only evidence was his involuntary self-incrimination and testimonies that were obtained by the investigation with violation of the legal procedure. Dmitrii was sentenced to death by the Tashkent oblast court. The Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan dismissed his appeal against the verdict. The convict was executed despite the requirement of the UN Human Rights Committee to terminate the execution.
On 12 July 2000 Tamara Chikunova came to prison for a meeting with her son and was told that he had been executed. Dmitrii’s cellmates managed to secretly pass to her his last letter, which proved his innocence.
Tamara Chikunova established the human rights organization Mothers against Death Penalty and Torture and has actively worked within its limits ever since. Members of the organization managed to get 20 death verdict reversed and fostered the final abolition of the death penalty in Uzbekistan since 1 January 2008.
In her address to the Belarusians, most of who started pondering about the death penalty not long ago, Tamara Chikunova stated: ‘The society where the death penalty exists is a society without future, as it justifies the right to kill in the name of the law. Society won’t improve if one or two persons are executed. Violence breeds reciprocal violence. How can we, relatives of the punished people, live in the society that doesn’t want to understand that we are innocent? That’s why I want to address all those who live in Belarus and again remind that mothers and children of death convicts aren’t guilty towards you. Why can’t you then offer a helping hand to them, why do you wish them death? You shouldn’t wait when such grief comes to you. I regret that I used to be an ordinary woman who didn’t think about the problem of the death penalty, as this grief could have passed my home had I started dealing with this issue earlier.’