The case of Ivan Famin: Innocently executed
In 1998, the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, which was then called “Viasna-96”, received a complaint from the mother of Ivan Famin, who was sentenced to death. The woman gave the human rights defenders several letters that were written on death row and were passed through so called prison mail.
In his letters, the death convict wrote that he was convicted of the brutal murder of a taxi driver, which he did not actually commit. He also describes in detail the conditions of detention on death row:
“This is pure hell... they beat you for everything... for writing statements to the infirmary and for asking for a priest. And they just beat you for nothing when they are in a bad mood.”
Ivan Famin’s mother argued that her son was forced to take the blame upon himself by other convicts who threatened to kill his mother and sister.
In 1998, the case was sent to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The Committee began the consideration of the application and informed the Belarusian Foreign Ministry that the case would be considered at the international level. According to paragraph 92 of the Committee’s Rules of Procedure, the State should not carry out a death sentence during the consideration of the complaint on the merits. Despite this, Ivan Famin was executed.
Ivan Famin’s story was continued in 2012 during the shooting of the film “Departed on Sentence” when activists of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus” traveled to Berlin to interview Aleh Alkayeu, who in 1996-2001 was the head of the detention center No. 1 in Minsk. The activists brought the letters written by Ivan Famin while on the death row in 1998.
Aleh Alkayeu, who at that time was also head of the firing squad, said he remembered Ivan Famin well. And he also confirmed that Ivan Famin was executed for a murder committed by other people and that “everyone knew” that he took someone else’s fault upon himself and incriminated himself during the investigation and the trial. And although “everyone knew” that, Ivan Famin was executed. Aleh Alkayeu stressed that the firing squad fulfills the court’s decision and the executioner does not decide who will live and who will die, as decisions are made on a different level.