Valiantsin Stefanovich: Human rights defenders welcome the participation of official representatives of Belarus in the 4th World Congress Against Death Penalty

2010 2010-03-03T01:08:01+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The 4th World Congress against the Death Penalty took place in Geneva at the end of February. More than 1 500 lawyers, representatives of human rights organizations, well-known civil and political activists from almost 100 countries took part in the work of this forum.

Belarusian human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich, one of the representatives of Belarus at the Congress, shares the details of its work.

’This congress was organized by a number of international human rights organizations and was attended by representatives of the officials state institutions of many countries. During the congress, several open sessions were conducted, within the guidelines of which the concrete aspects of the death penalty were discussed.

Who represented the Republic of Belarus at the Congress?

As far as the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) was one of the co-organizers of the Congress and the Human Rights Center Viasna is a member of the federation, a representative of Viasna was invited. The Congress was also attended by Belarusian officials including Andrei Taranda, Head of the Belarusian mission at the UN, and Mikalai Samaseika, chairman of the Regular commission on legislation and judicial and legal issues of theChamber of Representatives of the National Assembly. By the way, the latter repeatedly expressed his personal opposition to the death penalty in the pages of the Komsomolskaya Pravda v Belorussii and at the web portal. The officials participated in the congress, but did not take the floor.

We welcome the participation of official representatives of Belarus in the work of the forum and the fact that the authorities discuss the introduction of moratorium on the death penalty in Belarus and the related aspects including the preparation of the public opinion.

Was the question of the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus raised during the Congress?

There was no special focus on Belarus, but during the first day Belarus was several times mentioned by the speakers among the countries that retained the death penalty. It was also said that it was one of the two countries of the OSCE region where the death penalty was practiced (the US is the other one).

However, main attention was paid to the five countries that are infamous for the greatest numbers of executions: China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and USA.

In general, different aspects of the problem of death penalty were touched upon. Floor was taken by well-known lawyers, representatives of the US Advocatory Bar Association and representatives of the judicial community of Japan where the death penalty is still used. The religious aspects of the problem were discussed as well. Representatives of the leading world confessions – Israelites, Moslems, Buddhists, Christians and Hindus spoke about the attitude of their religions to this issue.

The unofficial part of the Congress included contests of posters against the death penalty and exhibitions by different NGOs engaged in holding campaigns against capital punishment.

Were any addresses or statements adopted at the Congress?

Yes, the Congress adopted a special resolution calling on all countries of the world to completely refuse from this kind of punishment by 2015 to rid the humankind of such manifestation of savageness.

Bear in mind that the number of the countries that completely refused from the death penalty is growing. In 1977 there were just 16 such countries. Now there are 95. Togo, Burundi and Argentina stand among the latest abolitionists. 93% of death executions fall on just five countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the US.

China is a record holder in this respect. Only during the last year 7,000 death verdicts were issued there. However, since 2007 the executions must be approved by the Supreme Court, which means that some progress takes place even in this country.