Belarus MPs to mull over abolishing death penalty

The first package of amendments to the Belarusian criminal legislation has already been approved by the National Assembly; it is to come into force in 2021.

The second package which is being developed; the lawmakers are expected to consider it in a few months; it might take effect no earlier than next year. The proposal to remove from the Criminal Code the option of the death penalty as maximum punishment is the most revolutionary item included in the package. According to TUT.BY sources, the amendment was initiated by law enforcement agencies.

Belarus remains the only country in Europe that still applies capital punishment. The West has repeatedly called on the Belarusian authorities to join a global moratorium as a first step towards the abolition of death penalty.

The exact number of executions in Belarus is unknown, but local human rights defenders and journalists have worked tirelessly to uncover some information about death sentences and executions. According to the Ministry of Justice of Belarus, 245 people were sentenced to death from 1994 to 2014. Human rights NGOs believe that around 400 people have been executed since the country gained its independence in 1991; president Alyaksandr Lukashenka granted a pardon to only one convict.

In June 2020, the Supreme Court of Belarus upheld the appeal of Viktar Skrundzik. The man who was facing the death penalty for murdering several elderly people asked the authorities to re-define the charge and mitigate the sentence. As a result, the criminal case was reported to be sent for revision, but no further details were published.

Amnesty International about Belarus: Serious human rights concerns persist