Leanid Sudalenka: “An ignorant person can say that we are "protecting murderers.” It's not true.”
Homel lawyer Leanid Sudalenka, who prepared a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee on behalf of death convict Aliaksandr Hrunou as part of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus”, in an interview for the dp.spring96.org website talks about the inefficiency of the death penalty as punishment.
- You prepared a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee for Aliaksandr Hrunou, defendant in the murder case in Homel... One can often encounter such a stereotype – both in the media, and at the level of consumer consciousness – that human rights activists who oppose the death penalty are “protecting murderers.”
- If a person is ignorant, he can say that human rights defenders are “protecting murderers.” In fact, it is not true. For example, when I worked on Hrunou’s case, I was a kind of a “bridge” between Hrunou’s mother, Hrunou’s lawyer and the UN Committee. I had a power of attorney from Hrunou to work with the UN Committee. But in the national judicial system, I have no right to defend him, lawyers are engaged instead. I prepared a complaint on behalf of Hrunou to the UN Committee, where I stressed several violations of his rights by the State, including the right to life. The Supreme Court sent Hrunou’s case for retrial. On November 26, the trial began... This does not mean that “human rights defenders are protecting murderers.”
- So who and why do campaigners for the abolition of the death penalty protect?
- We, the participants of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus,” do not assess crimes. We oppose the death penalty as a punishment. Life is a value, this is recognized by all the countries of Europe, and our country should join these countries, should follow the way taken by our closest neighbors, Russia and Ukraine. The death penalty in the 21th century is nothing but savagery. And the Belarusian Orthodox Church opposes the death penalty, saying that a person’s life is God given and can be taken only by God. And judicial mistakes... We remember cases where innocent people were shot. And the death penalty is irreversible – a man's life will not be returned if a miscarriage of justice is admitted. If one could dream and imagine that killing the murderer could return the life, resurrect the person he murdered, the victim – then we could talk about the effectiveness of the death penalty. But nobody will return the life of a murdered person. Our society is not ready to give an answer to the question, “Do we need the death penalty?” It happens, among other reasons, due to the fact that the State does not explain the pros and cons of the death penalty. But this is not just a problem in our society, in countries where the death penalty was abolished many people also advocate the death penalty. The problem of the death penalty is not a question to be decided in a referendum. This is a question that is decided by the elite.
- There is an opinion (also at the household level) that if the death penalty is abolished crime rates will increase, including the number of maniacs and serial killers. How effective is the death penalty in terms of crime prevention?
- If the death penalty were an effective means of restraint of serious crimes, then we probably would not have to say that this year three people were sentenced to death in Belarus... And this happened every year - three or two. The very fact of the use of the death penalty is not a deterrent and does not reduce the number of grave offenses for which it is imposed. It has been proved that the killer who takes the life of the victim is not thinking that he, too, will be deprived of life.
- And what about Hrunou’s case?
- This man is sick. He should be treated first and then prosecuted. We and the lawyers, therefore, demanded that a new in-depth examination of the state of his mental health should be held. And apart from the death penalty, there is such a punishment as life imprisonment.
Interviewed by Palina Stsepanenka, exclusively for the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus”