Amnesty International: Unprecedented Supreme Court decision to suspend death sentences
Responding to the news that the Supreme Court of Belarus has in an unprecedented move decided to suspend and review the death sentences of Ihar Hershankou and Siamion Berazhnoy while their appeals are under consideration, Marie Struthers, Director of Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office, said:
“This is a hugely significant and unprecedented decision for the only country in the region that has continued to execute people all these years. We are not aware of other cases where the Supreme Court of Belarus has suspended an execution.”
“We continue to monitor the case closely, but it gives us hope that after years of discussion on the death penalty Belarus is ready to walk the talk. We urge Belarus’ highest authorities to build on this development by immediately establishing a moratorium on executions and commuting all death sentences as first steps towards making Belarus death penalty-free."
Since 1994 the Supreme Court of Belarus has upheld all convictions and death sentences that came before it and President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has only once granted clemency.
Ihar Hershankou and Siamion Berazhnoy were convicted and sentenced to death by the Mahiliou Regional Court in eastern Belarus on 21 July 2017. They were found guilty of murdering six people between 2009 and 2015 with the aim of appropriating their property. Their convictions and death sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court on 20 December 2017 and the two men have since been at risk of imminent execution. Amnesty International has campaigned for their sentences to be commuted and for the President to introduce an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
Despite continuing assurances from the Belarusian authorities that it is progressing toward a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty, Belarus has shown a flagrant disdain for global and regional trends towards abolition. Amnesty International believes that the death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As of today, 106 countries have fully abolished the death penalty in law and 142 are abolitionist in law or practice.