Today is the World Day against the Death Penalty
The idea to mark the Day against the Death
Penalty belongs to the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which
includes about 40 human rights organizations, including “Amnesty
International”, as well as bar associations, unions and local governments from
all over the world. In September 2007 the Board of Ministers of the European
Council decided to mark the European Day against the Death Penalty within the
framework of the World Day, as far as Europe is a space which has been
factually free from the death penalty since 1997.
At present Belarus is the only European country without
membership in the Council of Europe. The main obstacle to its admission to this
organ is the ongoing use of the capital punishment.
In 1993 the Belarusian Parliament received a special guest status at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, but was deprived of it 1996 after a referendum which legalized the death penalty.
In June 2009 PACE adopted a resolution to return the special guest status to Belarus with the condition of the abolition of the death penalty or introduction of a moratorium on it. However, new executions were performed in Belarus the following year, after which PACE officially recommended its members not to visit the country. In 2012, in the aftermath of the shooting of Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou (charged with a terrorist act in the Minsk metro), the EU Secretary General Torbjorn Yagland stated that the use of the death penalty in Belarus prevents it from having any status within the framework of the Council of Europe.
According to information of “Amnesty International” and the “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty” campaign, over 400 people were punished with death during the last 20 years in Belarus.
As said to BelaPAN by the campaign coordinator Andrei Paluda, the situation is aggravated by the non-responsiveness of the state agencies.
The present practice of execution in Belarus is a separate issue. “The relatives are informed neither about the time and place of the execution, nor about the place of burial, the graph “the reason of death” in the left certificate is left blank. All their inquiries are answered in a standard way: “The time of the execution and the time of burial are not disclosed”, stated Mr. Paluda.
The calls of the human rights defenders to introduce a death penalty moratorium or abolish it altogether are answered with references to the results of the 1996 referendum, at which the majority of the Belarusian citizens supported the keeping of this kind of punishment.
“However, 16 years have passed since that time”, emphasizes Andrei Paluda. “I especially “like” the answer of the Belarusian authorities that the abolition of the death penalty is a question of time. They don't tell what time, though – will it be a month, a year, or some decades?”
On 10 October Minsk activists of “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty” will present the film "Departed on Sentence”, dedicated to the issue of the death penalty. “Usually this phrase “left according to the verdict”Away on the verdict” is used to inform the relatives about the execution when they bring parcels to prison. The same is written in the prisoner's case,” said the human rights defender.