Discussion "Murder on Verdict" held in Vilnius
October 7, the discussion “Murder on Verdict” was held at the Museum of Genocide Victims
in Vilnius with the participation of the Belarusian human rights defenders, journalists and representatives of the Foreign Ministry of Lithuania.
The discussion was held with the support of the Belarusian Human Rights House named after Barys Zvoskau, in partnership with the human rights organization Freedom House within the framework of the Week against the Death Penalty in Belarus.
The discussion was attended by the coordinator of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus" Andrei Paluda, the head of the Belarusian Documentation Center Raisa Mikhailouskaya, director of the film "Six Arguments against the Death Penalty" Viktar Tratsiakou, writer and journalist Palina Stsepanenka and special envoy of the Luthuanian MFA in Eastern Europe (Eastern Partnership) Zhygimantas Pavilionis. The discussion was moderated by Vytis Jurkonis, project director of Freedom House in Lithuania.
The event became an occasion for speakers and participants to consider the various aspects of the problem of the death penalty on the local and international levels.
Hanna Herasimava, Director of the Belarusian Human Rights House in Vilnius, noted the important role of the raised topic for Belarusian and Lithuanian society:
"The right to life is almost the most important human right. Joining the Week against the Death Penalty in Belarus, we hope that Lithuanian society will pay attention to this issue and the international community will help to achieve at least a moratorium on the death penalty in Belarus until this kind of punishment is completely abolished.”
The coordinator of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus" Andrei Paluda reminded the audience about the closed nature of the topic of the death penalty in Belarus and the secrecy of the relevant information. The human rights activist also addressed the historical aspect of the death penalty in Belarus, which was actually actually inherited by the country inherited from Soviet times.
"The existence of the death penalty in our country is an appropriate indicator of the human rights situation in Belarus and relations of the state to its citizens. The death penalty in the twenty-first century is a real barbarism and savagery, especially by shooting. The problem lies in the secrecy that exists today around the theme of death - even the relatives of those in respect of whom the death penalty is carried out can not receive the necessary information."
The discussion also touched upon the issues of extrajudicial execution in Belarus: human rights activist Raisa Mikhailouskaya told about the unexplained disappearances of opponents of Aliaksandr Lukashenka and the investigation of these cases. The investigation was stated 16 years ago, but to date no one has been brought to justice, and neither the relatives of the missing nor the public circles know who stands behind the disappearances.
"Belarusian Documentation Center was preparing an alternative report to the Universal Periodic Review on Art. 6 of the International Covenant, the right to life, in cooperation with the Human Rights Center" Viasna". Our part in this report was the chapter titled "the right to life in the context of enforced disappearances". It could seem that all the disappearances of politicians were not interrelated, but all of them were united by the firing gun. The pistol, from which death verdicts were executed, became the tool for getting rid of political opponents of the regime. These people were not criminals or rapists. It was the country's elite, and the present deplorable state of our country is a logical result of the political disappearances. We, as human rights activists, demand that those criminal proceedings within which the disappearances have been investigated, be considered as the implementation of extra-judicial executions."
The aspect of international cooperation in the issue of abolishing the death penalty was spoked about by the special envoy in the region of Eastern Europe, of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Zhygimantas Pavilionis. He especially noted that he was very surprised by the position of the Belarusian authorities who hope for the warming of relations with the European Union irrespective of the human rights situation in the country.
"I am personally convinced that Belarusians are a very European nation. However, Belarus can not be perceived by Europe as part of the European identity until the fundamentals of democracy and humanity are laid. The use of the death penalty demonstrates the attitude of the government to its citizens. Unfortunately, I can say that for the time of independence, Belarus has not moved forward, but on the contrary, we see only steps backward. I sincerely hope for change in the sphere of human rights and the death penalty in the country. The international solidarity can play an important role here, but it is important for the country and society itself to understand and supports the idea of humanization and democratization.”
The premiere viewing of the film “Six Arguments of the Death Penalty” was held during the discussion. The film consists of six clips, each of which represents an argument against the death penalty as a disproportionate and inhuman punishment.
The film's director, Viktar Tratsiakou, and its script writer Palina Stsepanenka said that the idea of making this film was born during discussions at summer human rights school in Vilnius, when it became clear that there were some stable arguments against the death penalty. The main aim of the film is the wish to convey the inhumanness of the death penalty to representatives of various social strata in Belarus.
Let us remind that October 10 is the World Day against the Death Penalty. Therefore, on October 5-10 human rights defenders hold their annual Week against the Death Penalty in Belarus.
This year, the Week has been joined by the advocates of the abolitionist movement from Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The Human Rights Center "Viasna" and the campaign "Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus" invite everyone to join this campaign and sign the petition for the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus.