Non-transparent procedure, bringing suffering to the relatives
Despite the commitments as a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to "provide the public with information regarding the use of the death penalty", all information on the passed and enforced sentences is classified.
The public do not know the names of the executed and their number. The state publishes only the number of the issued sentences, while a general picture can be obtained by aggregating information from various state agencies – the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Constitutional Court.
It is also not known to whom and for what offense the death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment. According to media reports, 156 convicts were pardoned in just two years. However, the activities of the Commission on Pardons are closed to the public and it is not known on what grounds the decisions are made and whether there is abuse of power or corruption in this agency.
Human rights activist Iryna Toustsik maintained mail correspondence with Andrei Zhuk who was found guilty of killing two cash-in-transit guards who had been carrying money to pay salaries to workers of the agricultural enterprise “Balshavik-Ahra”. “It was a short correspondence, which stopped after the rapid execution, - says Iryna. - In his letters Andrei Zhuk reflected about the extent of fairness of the death penalty. He drew examples when some people were sentenced to 25 years in prison, others – for life, and he – to death, for similar crimes. Nevertheless, Andrei held quite firmly, knowing about his sentence, but didn't justify himself and was ready to suffer any punishment. Two children were left after him. One of them was born when the father was already in prison. Andrei didn't see him. He wrote he would have never committed the crime had he thought about his children and family and that he had no plans to kill anyone, but did it out of fear...”
Society must realize that the death sentence concerns not only the guilty but also brings terrible sufferings to their families. According to the Criminal Code of Belarus, the friends and relatives of the executed are deprived of the opportunity to bury their beloved and visit their graves – the bodies aren't given to the relatives after the execution and the place of the burial is not reported. A dash is put in the “cause of death” graph in the death certificate. As the former head of the Minsk remand prison Aleh Alkayeu said, he had seen “much suffering and hysterics". In an interview with Amnesty International he also recalled the suffering of the convicts. According to him, once two of them hanged themselves in turn in the same cell. The duty officer noticed what was going on too late and didn't manage to rescue them. The bodies were issued to the relatives two days before the day on which the execution was appointed.