Human rights activist Tamara Chikunova in Homel: “Our indifference means consent to legalized murder”
On October 8, Homel human rights activists held a meeting within the framework of the Week Against the Death Penalty, which was attended by mothersof those sentenced to death: the founder of the public association "Mothers against the Death Penalty and Torture" (Uzbekistan) Tamara Chikunova, Vileika resident Tamara Sialiun and Homel resident Volha Hrunova. Pavel Sialiun has been executed, Aliaksandr Hrunou is on death row now.
The meeting began with expression of solidarity with Volha Hrunova by Tamara Chikunova and Tamara Sialiun. The women advised her not to despair and to fight against the death penalty. The founder of the Uzbek public association "Mothers against the Death Penalty and Torture", whose son was innocently executed, told the public her own story. It was preceded by torture, abuse, blackmail and threats by the investigators. They bullied and tortured Tamara Chikunova's son in order to get the necessary confessions, as well as her – as a means to blackmail him. "They put him on his knees, placed a gun to his head and demanded to sign a confession to the murder. He disagreed. Then the investigators gave him a phone, where he heard me bullied and crying. Then he signed his own death warrant, confessed to the murder he did not commit," said the mother. Then there was the trial and execution. In his last note the son wrote Tamara he hadn't killed anyone, that he loved her and asked her to remember him.
In response to these last words written by her son, Tamara Chikunova created an organization against the death penalty. "I went through death 22 more times – these were the deaths of the people we didn't manage to save”, stated the woman. She became the mother of those who waited for the execution of the sentence on death row. The lives of more than a hundred people were saved thanks to the efforts of "Mothers against the Death Penalty and Torture". 21 of them are already at large. "None of them have returned to the path of crime", stated the human rights activist.
Thanks to the efforts of the public association, the death penalty has been abolished, and not only in Uzbekistan, but also in the neighboring countries. In Uzbekistan, 58 former death row convicts are still alive, and only 12 of them have received such punishment as life imprisonment. In Kyrgyzstan, 160 people were on the death row at the time of the abolition of the death penalty.
"The value of life does not depend on how much money you have in your wallet, what nationality you are, or your social role. Life is a priceless gift that is given to us at birth. The purpose of criminal punishment is effective repentance, but what kind of effective repentance can there be when a person is killed in the name of the state?" argues Tamara Chikunova.
She urged the participants not to be indifferent, because indifference is spiritual death. "Our indifference means consent to legalized murder", said the woman.
Tamara Chikunova's principled position against the death penalty has received well-deserved praise – she became the winner of 11 international awards, including the order of the French Legion of Honour. However, in Uzbekistan, she used to be harassed for her activities – she was repeatedly threatened and promised to be "rolled up in the asphalt" near Tashkent prison.
At the end of the meeting, participants watched the film "Departed on Centence", prepared by the Belarusian human rights defenders.