Death Penalty in Belarus: Secret Executions in the Middle of Europe
Minsk-Paris, 6 October 2017. Ahead of the International Day against the Death Penalty on the 10th of October, our organisations recall that executions continue to take place in the middle of Europe. Detained in conditions amounting to torture, in constant psychological anguish caused by the uncertainty of the timing of their execution, prisoners in Belarus are being killed in secrecy. FIDH and its member organisation Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Viasna" call on international organisations to use all diplomatic means in order to achieve abolition of the death penalty in Belarus and render Europe a death penalty free zone.
2016 has seen the execution of at least four prisoners in Belarus, the highest number since 2008. Such executions had been on hold for the duration of negotiations around EU restrictive measures against Belarussian officials and businesses. However, upon the lifting of sanctions in February 2016, executions resumed. In 2017, one person has been executed and three sentenced to death, including two whose sentences are under appeal.
One year ago, the report published by FIDH and HRC "Viasna" Death Penalty in Belarus: Murder on (Un)lawful Grounds, highlighted that the majority of prisoners sentenced to death come from disadvantaged social backgrounds without knowledge of their rights or access to qualified legal aid.
This emphasises the problematic put forward this year by the World Coalition against the Death Penalty : people who are socially and economicaly vulnerable are at a greater risk of being sentenced to death and executed.
Since publication of the report, no change has been registered in the systemic character of violations committed during investigation of death-eligible crimes in Belarus. The authorities continue to use torture and ill-treatment to force suspects to incriminate themselves in the absence of a lawyer. The situation concerning the independence of lawyers has since worsened. Death sentences issued by the Supreme Court still cannot be appealed, in violation of international norms.
The authorities in Belarus and in particular the President Lukashenka have on multiple occasions expressed support for the death penalty as a preventive measure. However, public opinion in favour of abolition has reportedly doubled since the 1996 referendum.
"The right to life is not subject to plebiscite considerations. According to the Belarussian Constitution, death penalty can be abolished by a simple Presidential decree that would put an end to this unlawful state-sponsored murder," commented Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President.
FIDH, a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP), and HRC "Viasna" reiterate their total opposition to the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances.