PACE insists on moratorium on the death penalty in Belarus
“A world without the death penalty will not be weaker, it will only improve,” said Andrea Rigoni, representative of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, in his speech at today’s international conference in Minsk. He also made it clear that this decision will contribute to a more productive dialogue between the official Minsk and the European Union, according to Tut.by.
“We do not want Belarus to choose between East and West. You only need to find a balance. We only want to ensure that human rights played a central role in the country,” said he. “We suggest that at least a moratorium on the death penalty should be declared in order to accelerate the dialogue between Belarus and Europe.”
Andrea Rigoni stressed that Belarus was deprived of the PACE guest status after the 1996 referendum when 80% of Belarusians voted for the retention of the capital punishment.
Today, Belarus is the last country in Europe that still applies the death penalty.
“We understand that Belarusian citizens support it. But I do not think this is a major obstacle to the abolition of the death penalty. It is necessary that those who control the society forced it to evolve, think and reflect. All the statistics say about the uselessness of the death penalty. It does not reduce the level of crime,” said Mr. Rigoni. “In today’s Belarus we can talk about a moratorium as an interim measure. But we have to try and stop for at least a year.”
Rigoni said that the moratorium could allow Belarus to return to the PACE as a special guest.
In response, Mikalai Samaseika, chairman of the Belarusian Parliament’s working group on the death penalty, said that this issue could not be subject to political bargaining.
“PACE should not issue ultimatums. We need to discuss this issue,” said the MP.
However, he further added that the dialogue with Europe on the issue of the death penalty was suspended in 2010 and the reason for that were the EU sanctions against Belarus.
A moratorium on the death penalty may be introduced by either Parliament or the President. But, according to Samaseika, Belarusian society is not ready for the abolition of the capital punishment.
“We can now bring the matter for discussion in the Oval Hall, but I cannot guarantee that it will be resolved positively. And it will only be a step backwards. And we cannot brush aside the public opinion that currently supports the death penalty,” said he.