Maira Mora: EU ready to discuss abolition of the death penalty with Minsk
Today, the World and European Day against the Death Penalty is marked across the world.
On October 10, on behalf of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN, national governments, international non-governmental organizations and social movements voice calls addressed to all the countries of the world that still use the death penalty to abolish it or at least take a step toward its abolition – to declare a moratorium on executions.
In June 2013, Madrid hosted the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty, which combined the efforts of representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society to develop an international strategy for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.
Belarus is the only European country which still executes death verdicts. Two thirds of the countries of the world have abolished the death penalty completely or declared a moratorium on its use. The death penalty is legally abolished in all the countries of the European Union. The moratorium on the death penalty is a condition of membership in the Council of Europe. Of the 56 OSCE member countries 51 countries totally abolished the death penalty and 3 declared a moratorium while retaining the death penalty de jure.
In 2013, Maryland became the eighteenth U.S. state to refuse to execute death verdicts. In Russia, death sentences have not been executed since 1996, in Ukraine – since 1997. In Kazakhstan, the moratorium has been in force since the 2003.
Many countries are seeking to limit the use of the death penalty, but it is important to remember that many of them still do not ensure compliance with the minimum standards of the United Nations – the standards for the rights of those facing the death penalty, including the right to a fair trial and provisions for the execution of the death penalty in a way that minimizes sufferings. Compliance with the minimum standards also implies that innocent persons, including the relatives of those sentenced to death cannot be treated in a manner which would decrease their suffering.
In the U.S., opponents of the death penalty cite ten arguments in favor of its abolition. Apparently, one of the most important arguments in favor of a moratorium is the lack of any kind of evidence that the presence of the death penalty in the range of the prison system is a deterrent to crime.
For me, the most convincing argument is that replacing of the death penalty with life imprisonment eliminates the possibility of irreparable miscarriage of justice. Would not replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without possibility of release be a humane step towards the innocent, including in respect of the prisoner’s family, as well as the staff of the prison system in charge of the execution of the verdict in the name of the Republic Belarus?
The main arguments of both opponents and supporters of the moratorium on the death penalty have long been well known. There are people who are categorically for or categorically against, but most people are trying to understand the problem, isolate the legal aspect and deviating from the moral and spiritual one, or seeing it in the political section, while rejecting its social and psychological aspects.
Can the proponents and opponents of the moratorium formulate a common position to find the lowest common denominator? Is this lowest common denominator the direction in which the society would like to develop, and the goals that it sets for itself?
I have the impression that in the past two years Belarus has often spoken about the prospects for the abolition of the death penalty. In June, I took part in a round table organized by the Belarusian Orthodox Church in cooperation with the Council of Europe, which discussed among other things the prospect of the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus. The European Union is ready to engage in further discussions of these perspectives and provide the Belarusian side with the necessary expertise.
Maira Mora, Head of EU Delegation to Belarus