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Stop murder – in the name of the people!

2011 2011-11-20T20:54:07+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Deputy chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich

Deputy chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich

The Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty are calling upon everyone to help save human lives by signing the online petition against the possible execution of Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou.

The two youths are currently standing trial on charges of alleged plotting and executing a number of explosions, including the 11 April 2011 Minsk underground blast, which claimed 15 lives.

With the Supreme Court’s expected pronouncement of the verdict due on 30 November, Valiantsin Stefanovich, vice-chair of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and co-founder of the campaign against the death penalty, released an urgent appeal to the people of Belarus:

It may seem that justice is ready to ‘win’ again. It is the execution of persons who themselves committed murder, that many see as the restoration of the very justice. A high-profile crime is solved, the criminals are caught and convicted, the law enforcers and prosecuting officials receive their ‘stars’ and awards. It may seem that all is as it should be ...
However, there is a strange metamorphosis within the society. It was this terrible tragedy that perhaps for the first time highlighted the issue of capital punishment, forced to think about it. The people do not believe in Kanavalau and Kavaliou’s guilt, having launched a petition to protect them from execution. This is the first time such a popular initiative is being launched in Belarus. It belongs to the people, it is not the initiative of some human rights organizations, which for several years have consistently stressed the need to abolish the death penalty or, at least, to declare a moratorium on it.
One of the main arguments against the death penalty in Belarus (or for declaring a moratorium on its implementation) for me personally is the lack of an independent judiciary in the country, the extreme dependence and powerlessness of lawyers, the complete lack of public control over the activities of secret services, police and prison system. Under these conditions, the application of the death penalty raises the possibility of a forced, torture-related, self-inculpation, a miscarriage of justice and as a result a death sentence to an innocent person. It seems to me that the current situation with the case of Kanavalau and Kavaliou is a vivid example to this. The distrust of the results of the investigation seem to be the quintessence of the society’s distrust of the judiciary and law enforcement in general. It is hard to trust the government, whose police and courts make dirty-mouths of citizens who peacefully clap their hands, and the KGB scary people with tales about rats in the pipelines and the military arsenal of the opposition in a garage on the outskirts of Minsk. What is perilous is the intelligence agencies that are engaged in fiction in the spirit of the 1930s – the one who invents the plot, discloses it himself.
We all have once again involuntarily become the viewers of a terrible tragedy, the act of another murder stretched in time – only this time it will be killing in the name of the Republic of Belarus. Then, on behalf of the Republic the families of the executed will not be able to recover the body for burial and will not learn the place of burial. And once again another mother half-mad with grief will scout the neighboring cemetery in search of her son’s fresh unmarked grave. I can see it for the past 15 years. That's why I have been fighting, and will keep on fighting for the abolition of the death penalty. Each time as if for the first time, each time ...
Now we, human rights defenders, have deliberately declared a “silent moratorium”, just watching the Kanavalau-Kavaliou trial. We did not want to exert indirect pressure on neither the investigation nor the judicial process. There was a terrible tragedy, killing innocent people. An investigation was carried out, which was expected to sort it all out, the trial began, which was expected to assess the evidence collected by the investigation. I will not talk about the quality of the evidence against Kavaliou and Kanavalau – this has already been much talked about, including lawyers. The only thing I want to stress: one of the fundamental questions are the motives for committing the crime. I have not yet heard a single sound response to it. I do not take into account the unintelligible and formal “destabilizing the political situation in Belarus”.
Now, when the state is ready to once again implement its “act of justice”, this “silent moratorium” has come to an end. We, activists of the “Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty” campaign are starting a series of active steps to prevent the killings. I understand that even the interim measures of relief by the UN Human Rights Committee cannot stop the conveyor belt of death. But together we now have a chance to stop it forever. Because people should not be killed, because human life is of supreme value – including to the state named the Republic of Belarus."


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