Andrei Paluda: “If the authorities believe that the death penalty deters crime, why do they conceal the information about the executions?
The human rights activist considers the most popular pros and contras of the death penalty and analyzes the public opinion on the subject in Belarus.
- Andrei, to justify the use of the death penalty the officials often refer to public opinion and the results of the referendum in 1996. They say that this is the decision of the Belarusian people and one cannot run counter to it. Does the majority of Belarusians still stand for the death penalty?
- If you refer to a recent study conducted by the company Satio, the majority of Belarusians indeed support the death penalty. However, it is a very volatile situation. Even if we take account of the results of the referendum, the legitimacy of which independent experts and human rights activists have questioned since 1996, a new generation has already grown up, which did not vote at it. And the polls show that the majority of young people are against the death penalty. I'd also like to note that when at the time of the trial of Kanavalau and Kavaliou the society clearly parted into those who advocate for and against the capital punishment. Again, if you look at the survey results, many people supported the death penalty, but under certain conditions, "if there was an independent judiciary in Belarus", "if there was a jury trial", "if the offender's guilt has been proven 100%", etc. And all these conventions say that many Belarusians do not have a confident answer to the question of the death penalty.
- You stressed the independence of the judiciary. Indeed, the Satio research and other polls show that Belarusians do not trust the judicial system . What do you think is the reason? Not everyone has personally faced with injustice in the court ...
- If you look at the number of administrative penalties in the country, we can say that probably every Belarusian or his/her relatives had to face with our judicial system and law enforcement agencies. They experienced the dependence of these bodies from the regime and defects in the legislation. Besides, we have enough wrongfully convicted citizens. A striking example is Mikhaul Hladki, sentenced to eight years in prison for allegedly killing his brother. After his release from jail, the real culprit, Eduard Lykau, was allegedly found. By the way, he has been sentenced to death.
- By the way, about the case of Lykau became known to public only after public statements of human rights activists. Why have the police and the court decided to silence a high-profile case, if the man is accused of five murders ?
- Indeed, “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus” were the first to write about it.Then the topic was picked up by journalists. The court and the Investigation Committee had to comment on the situation. This again emphasizes that the State hides information on death sentences and executions. Accordingly, we can not be completely sure of the figures, provided by the state agencies. On the one hand, officials say that the death penalty helps deter crime in society. But why do they kepp silent about the case of Eduard Lykau then? Why don't they give publicity to the information about these five murders, if they are so keen to stop and prevent serious crimes in the country? It turns out that their argument does not work!
- In recent years, it can be seen that the subject of the death penalty has become interesting not only for human rights sites, but also for the state and independent media . Materials on this subject receive thousands of views and comments ...
- Indeed, the topic of the death penalty has become a media subject. It is very important for us, the campaign "Human Rights Defenders against the death penalty in Belarus," because a year or two ago there was no such active discussion in the media.
- However, a part of the commentators often speak in defense of the death penalty, sometimes in a very abrupt and harsh manner ...
- At this point, I think that the most important thing is not their position, but the fact that the discussion takes place. People can change their opinion if they hear strong arguments. Moreover, the arguments against the death penalty often become " top-end" ones, gathering most "likes", which witnesses the support of such a position among Internet users.
- In the comments one can often hear the opinions such as why do we, the taxpayers, have to pay for the lifelong detention of an offender as an alternative to the death penalty, if the money could be used on the social sphere. Indeed, is it such a huge sum for the budget?
- In fact, this figure is negligible. A participant of our discussion on the death penalty has estimated that the maintenance of one offender is costs about 150,000 rubles per day, or 4.5 million rubles a month. Belarus has a population of about 9,464 million people. If you count, it appears that one person pays just 0,475 rubles a day for the maintenance of one convict. However, there are cases when innocent people are convicted. Then, there are also cases when innocent people are executed, a striking example of which is the case of Mikhasevich in Vitsebsk. So I would like to ask those who defend the argument of saving the public funds – are such savings worth human lives?
- One of the popular arguments for the death penalty is the proportionality of punishment. Like, if the offender killed someone, he deserves exactly the same ...
- Gandhi said a very good thing about it: "The principle of an eye for an eye makes the world blind". In the Belarusian society there is a very low level of education in human rights and the rights of all. When you begin to browse through the different movies and publications through the prism of human rights, you get a different perception of reality. Being a human rights defender, I know that a newly born human being essential and inalienable rights, first of all the right to life.
I would also like to get back to the topic of evidence of guilt and the work of our judicial system. Unfortunately, today we have examples when innocent people are kept behind bars. In the 1980s one innocent man was executed for murders committed by serial killer Mikhasevich, some more were imprisoned for long terms after being tortured into testifying against themselves... In any case, the judicial system in any country of the world can make mistakes. I personally know a person who was sentenced to death in the United States. He spent 24 years in prison in Florida, and was released after a DNA examination, which revealed that he was innocent. Taking into account how quickly people are executed in Belarus (for instance, Uladzislau Kavaliou, shot 3.5 months after the verdict), I'm afraid that people in our country simply won't live long enough to see either re-examination or liberation, despite their innocence. Bearing in mind all these arguments, we strongly oppose the death penalty in Belarus.