UN expert calls to stop executions after recent court rulings

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Miklos Haraszti, urged the Government of Belarus to start an immediate moratorium on executions before the relevant legislation and court system can be reformed and capital punishment can be removed from the country’s Criminal Code.

“I am deeply disappointed by the rulings of Belarusian courts which continue to hand down death sentences to the country’s citizens,” Mr. Haraszti said, expressing his regret regarding the decision of the country’s Supreme Court, which on 18 September ruled to uphold the death sentence handed to Pavel Selyun. Mr. Selyun was accused of double murder and theft of documents and, on 12 July 2013, was sentenced to death by the Hrodna Oblast Court in Belarus.

In the course of 2013, two other death sentences were handed down by Belarusian courts. In the period 2010 – 2012, five executions were held, even though the UN Human Rights Committee had requested interim measures of protection.

The UN Human Rights Council established the mandate of Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus in March 2012. As a Special Rapporteur, Miklos Haraszti (Hungary) is independent of any government or organisation, and serves in his individual capacity.

In 2013, Belarus remains the last country in Europe not to have abandoned the death penalty. A high-profile case over the explosion in Minsk metro on April 11, 2011 is to be recalled: in March, 2012 Uladzislau Kavaliou and Dzmitry Kanavalau were put to death after being convicted of alleged carrying out the act of terrorism.

The death verdict to the young men delivered by the Supreme Court of Belarus on November, 30, 2011 triggered a mixed reaction in society and drew attention to the death penalty issue once again. Mr Kanavalau might have admitted legality of the judgement and refused to lodge a petition for pardon but Mr Kavaliou denied his participation in organizing three explosions and stated that in the course of investigation he had incriminated himself and Kanavalau acting under pressure of law enforcement officials.

Tomorrow, October 10, is the World Day against the death penalty. Campaigning by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty has contributed to the decision in 17 new countries to abolish the capital punishment for all crimes since the first World Day was held in 2003, bringing the total to 140 states which have abolished in law or practice – more than 70 per cent of the world’s countries.


See also