World Day against the Death Penalty marked today
The 11th World Day against the Death Penalty is marked on October 10, 2013. It was founded by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty – a group of legal associations, trade unions, local and regional authorities, as well as human rights organizations – for the purpose of the abolition of this kind of punishment.
In 2007, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, founded the European Day against the Death Penalty, which is marked on October 10. It is the contribution of the European countries to the World Day against the Death Penalty.
Supporters of the abolitionism movement oppose the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, characteristics of the offender and the way in which the state takes the life of the convicted person. They regard the death penalty as an extreme form of deprivation of a person’s rights – through the deliberate taking of life by the state. This is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Belarus is the last country in Europe that still practices the death penalty.
This type of punishment that we inherited from the Soviet past has not undergone significant changes since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The death sentence is executed by shooting by a special police unit in jail number 1 in Minsk. Just like in Soviet times, the date and time of execution is not reported, the body is not given to the relatives and the place of burial is not disclosed.
This practice has been repeatedly criticized by both Belarusian and international human rights organizations. The UN Human Rights Committee has three times recognized this practice an inhumane, cruel and inhuman treatment and violation by Belarus of Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The latest decision was issued by the Committee in the case of Uladzislau Kavaliou, who was executed on March 15, 2011.
Human rights defenders stress the secrecy with regard to the issue of the death penalty in the country. Representatives of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus", launched in 2009, only known the number of passed and executed death verdicts.
Thus, since 1990 Belarus enforced death sentences against 329 persons. Of these, 281 were convicted between 1990 and 1999. After 1999, there has been a trend to a sharp decrease in the number of convictions. For example, from 2000 to 2013, 50 death sentences have been passed. This fact, in the first place, is due to the appearance in 1998 an alternative form of punishment of the death penalty – life imprisonment.
The “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus” campaign activists urge the Belarusian authorities to declare a moratorium on the use of this inhuman form of punishment, noting a number of significant problems associated with the presence of the death penalty in the country. Among them is the lack of proper public control over the activities of the police, security services and places of detention of citizens and, as a consequence, facts of the use of torture against detainees and suspects, lack of a possibility to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court, suspending the execution of the sentence, limited period of time from the pronouncement to the execution of the sentence (from 1 to 4 months or less), the execution of death sentences in cases registered in the UN Human Rights Committee and the urgent protection procedures issued by the Committee, and, finally, extreme dependence of the judiciary and counsels on the executive power. All these factors pose a serious threat to the possibility of miscarriages of justice and executions of people whose guilt in the commission of the crime was not established at trial by an independent and impartial tribunal.
The Constitution of Belarus says that the death penalty in the country is effective until it is canceled. We believe that the time has come for this. For it only takes a decree issued by the President in order to declare a moratorium on the death penalty.