Why are Belarusians cowed by the death penalty?
Belarus has handed down another death sentence. On March 18, the Homel Regional Court sentenced to death Siarhei Ivanou, a resident of Rechytsa, for raping and killing a 19-year-old girl last August.
It is the first death sentence to be pronounced this year. Three persons were executed last year.
Belarus is the only country in Europe and the CIS, where the death penalty is still used. Can the recent political thaw with the European Union help abolish the shameful practice?
“One should not rely on the miraculous power of the thaw. All the Belarusian authorities do is speak,” says the chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski. “Therefore, I advise representatives of the European Union and the Council of Europe to pay attention to the real situation in our country and to judge the Belarusian leaders by their deeds.”
According to the expert, to improve their relations with the West, to receive credits and investment the authorities have recently started using liberal rhetoric. While inside the country repression is still in place to keep the situation under control, including with the help of the death penalty.
“Belarusian authorities have consistently tried to prove that the position of authoritarianism has a right to exist in the European space. In my opinion, these are incompatible things,” emphasizes a former political prisoner.
The human rights activist notes that the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus depends on the political will of the President.
According to Ales Bialiatski, Aliaksandr Lukashenka is in no hurry to reform the law, primarily because he identifies today’s Belarus with the BSSR and the Soviet Union, where the death penalty was widespread.
“Secondly, it is a signal to all Belarusians that our lives are in the hands of Lukashenka. Since in each death sentence case he makes a decision: to pardon or not,” stresses Ales Bialiatski.