Why were they sentenced to death?
The cassation complaints of two death convicts, Hrodna dwellers Andrei Burdyka and Aleh Hryshkautsou, are pending at the Supreme Court. We don’t want to make any prognoses about the outcome of the trial. However, we have the opportunity to look at this case with consideration of different opinions and circumstances.
The case seems quite simple at first site: there is a violent murder, three corpses. The perpetrators were arrested and their guilt was proved at court. A verdict was passed, the information about this shocking criminal case was circulated by the leading media and most probably didn't leave indifferent a single reader, listener or spectator. Aren't Liable to Correction, an article with such verdict heading was published in the 25 May issue of the Respublika newspaper. A special attention to this article was drawn by its author, Sviatlana Rakhman, Chairperson of the Hrodna Region Procuracy who participated in the trial of Burdyka and Hryskhautsou in the capacity of the state accuser and demanded capital punishment for them.
As Sviatlana Rakhman writes in her publication, at first the investigators thought that 'such violent lynching must have been provoked by some important reasons, or the detainees were psychically ill'. However, then she adds: 'Pitifully enough, both guesses didn’t prove true'.
What concerns the reasons for the murder, the things that were stolen from the apartments of the killed people – a computer, a photo camera and clothes – are incomparable with three deaths from the position of common sense. However, the guess about the psychical illness can have certain reasons, which was found by the human rights defenders during a talk with the mother of one of the convicts, Andrei Burdyka.
Nina Burdyka said that her son was ill: 'He has had a nervous disease – generalized tics – since childhood. It is incurable and manifests periodically. The ill cannot control themselves during exacerbation. Andrei's disease was registered at the local polyclinic, and he received medical treatment at hospital. Sometimes, when he returned from school, he made some sounds and said: 'Mom, I will shout now'. I said to him: 'Shout, sonny, and he shouted very loudly. Such things don’t disappear without notice. They remain.
Now he is an adult and restrains himself much. He had to restrain himself too much in prison. Before this incident, Andrei complained about losing memory. Even when he served his previous term, he wrote that he was forgetting words and couldn't express his thoughts. It continued after his return, and we even wanted to visit a neurologist. When adult, Andrei didn't go to the doctor because he was ashamed of it. He has stuttered and stutters now when he is excited.
Andrei Burduka's mother couldn't present any medical evidence to prove her words, except for the recordings in his child health card. She said that the originals of all certificates and the conclusion of the criminal medical commission were attached to his first criminal case.
'Andrei and Aleh were subject to a medical examination within the guidelines of the case on the murders. Andrei disagreed with the commission. He said that the records that were made by the commission contradicted to his answers to their questions. I talked to the investigator and he confirmed that Andrei disagreed with the commission and said that he could be directed for another examination if necessary. However, when the counsel solicited for it, the investigator refused to do it for the reasons that are incomprehensible to me,' said N.Burdyka. 'When the murder happened, Andrei must have been provoked and couldn't restrain himself. I know that he would have held himself if he were healthy. I think that at the time of the crime he was either suffering from loss of memory or was in an affective state, but nobody took it into account. Of course, I don't try to wash him white. Yes, he did terrible things and I and he will suffer from it.
However, the psychical state of a man should probably be taken into account anyway.'
The woman also pointed that there were many guesses at the trial. 'During the trial, Aleh and Andrei tried to say that they didn’t come there with the intention to kill anyone. However, everything was presented as a premeditated murder.
'Of course, mom, it is difficult for me to perceive the approach of death in a slow waiting, knowing that it is inescapable, and being aware of how it will happen. However, I try to put up with it, remembering all the time that I have killed a human being. Moreover, the verdict has been issued already, the investigation is over. In general, they distorted many things in the accusation and in the verdict. What can I say about it – they needed to punish someone, that's why they skillfully arranged the necessary fragments to make it look impressive,' wrote the son in a letter to the woman.
New death sentences to distract attention?
Even without deepening in the details of this criminal case, we can state that it completely fits into the problem of domestic murders resulting from inebriety, because all figurants of the case – the victims and the criminals – were acquainted and must have often drank alcoholic beverages together.
Aleh Hryskavets' mother, Natallia Hryshkavets, told the human rights defenders that her son was acquainted with the victims. He dated 34-old Alena, they knew each other for about two years by the time of the murder.
'Aleh said that she had an 11-year-old son, Illia. I knew that this woman was a hard drinker. Many people gathered in her apartment all the time. There were frequent scandals there,' she added.
Of course, inebriety doesn't justify the people who commit a murder. However, in many cases the circumstances of hard crimes result from one great problem – alcoholization of the society. The government must combat this problem, but doesn’t take enough effort for it, as the number of such crimes doesn't go down, which is confirmed by statistics.
'The number of killings and fatal bodily injuries are inflicted by inebriated persons, remains high. In 2009, there were 490 persons who committed murders in the state of inebriety, four out of every five murderers! (…) It means that inebriety also kills. The bitter irony can be seen in the fact that often the victims and the criminals drink alcohol shortly before the crime. (…) Those who lose their mind from drinking can become potential killers in certain circumstances,' runs the article Shocking Crimes, published in the state-owned newspaper Respublika.
The publication also presents a portrait of an average killer, characteristic for 2009: 'Citizen of Belarus, man, more than 30 years old, with secondary education, used to receive criminal or administrative punishment, doesn't work, doesn't study, abuses alcohol, is a close relative, cohabitant or acquaintance of the victim.' What concerns the victims: as a rule, they were inebriated at the time of the crime, having consumed alcohol together with the killer. It is also stated that 'more than a half of murders and fatal bodily injuries were committed in 2009 in towns and cities'.
The problem of domestic crimes provoked by inebriety is related to the problem of re-adaptation of the persons who served prison terms and their engagement into a normal social life. There are many aspects including the employment and the supervision from the side of the law-enforcement agencies. Meanwhile, often the police confine themselves to obliging those who served their terms to get employed, and don’t conduct any effective prophylactic work.
'Andrei was released from prison. The remnant of his term was replaced with corrective labor. However, nobody demanded from him to report about his life. Nobody paid any interest to him during all 1.5 months he spent at liberty, nobody phoned him to control his actions. Such things might not have happened if he knew that he needed to be at home since 10 p.m. till 7 a.m. every day. However, there was no control,' argues Nina Burdyka.
Moreover, on the eve of the incident the owner of the apartment tried to calm down his drunken daughter-in-law, Alena, and her friends, who staged a scandal. He insistently phoned to police (six times!) and asked them to come. However, the police patrol didn’t arrive. As it was found during the trial, these six calls weren't even put in the register by the duty policeman. However, they were confirmed as a result of decryption of the telephone talks. The guilty policemen were punished for inaction. This fact confirms that Hrodna is not such a good place for living as prosecutor S.Rakhman tries to present it in her article.
Surely, the scale of the problem doesn't justify the murders, but at the same time, the capital punishment (which is also a murder, but a legalized one) doesn’t solve the problem on its merits. The Belarusian authorities have always stated that the death penalty is a restraining factor. However, it is not the case when people kill one another in a drunken state, because drunken people cannot think about anything in the state of aggression, the more that they will be punished by death for their deeds. That's why the issue of death verdicts in such cases looks like an attempt to hide significant faults of the state organs.
According to a recent article published in the private socio-political newspaper Narodnaya Volia, Belarus exceeded the norm of alcohol consumption, which the World Health Organization declared dangerous and leading to degradation of a nation, 8 liters of absolute alcohol per 1 person a year, back in 1998. This is 2.2 times higher than the consumption of alcohol in 1990. Thus, the statistics witness that our country hasn't drunk that much earlier and there used to be a certain norm in the consumption of alcohol! Moreover, the aforementioned number doesn't reflect the real scale of the problem. According to experts, it should be increased by about 1/3rd.'
It means that the authorities combat inebriety and alcoholization of the society only by word of mouth, without liquidating the complex of problems that pre-determine a high criminality, including hard crimes.
Erosion of guilt
There are no eyewitnesses in this case. There are just three murdered people and two persons who are accused in their killing. That's all. In this case, the question arises about the role of each accused in the crime: who killed who.
It is not quite clear from S.Rakhman's article, what she means: 'Having spent several months behind bars during the preliminary investigation, both criminals preserved in their minds the circumstances of that stormy night and told about them to the investigator, and then to the court. Their testimonies differed only concerning the killing of Nina. Both of them refused any relation to her heath and pointed at each other with conviction. Taking into account the number of the knife wounds inflicted to the woman, the court believed to the both of them…'
However, everything looks as if the investigation just shared three corpses between the two accused. It is necessary to investigate into the circumstances of the case, because one of the criminals could be forced to confess in having killed a certain person, whereas in fact the killings could be performed by one of the two accused, i.e. one of them was the performer of the crime and the other was his accomplice. The human rights defenders reached this conclusion taking into account the circumstance that there are no eyewitnesses that everything is grounded on the testimonies and confessions of the accused persons.
The same is stated by Burdyka and Hryskavets' counsels. According to them, there were no process violations during the investigation and the trial. At the same time, they stated that the verdict was grounded on the testimonies and confessions of the accused and the guesses concerning the three corpses.
It is quite difficult to discriminate in such a situation and prove who killed who. Each of the accused admitted his guilt partially, by pleading guilty in killing one person, but there is one more victim in the case. The investigation simply shared the corpses between the accused without discriminating in the details of the crime. Meanwhile, the testimonies of the accused are contradictory and caused many controversies. The counsels noted that the principle of individuality of punishment wasn't taken into account in the sentence passed.
Human Rights Defenders against Death Penalty in Belarus believe that the Supreme Court must find out and determine the concrete role of A.Burdyka and a.Hryshkautou in the crime that was committed by them.