Belarusian authorities consider death penalty moratorium


Belarusian detainees, arrested during the flash mob dubbed "Revolution through a social network", flash victory signs from a prison cell at a detention centre in Minsk July 6, 2011. Belarus's "clapping" protesters defiantly announced new street action against President Alexander Lukashenko on Monday despite a crackdown by police in which more than 300 people may have been arrested, local media reported. (BELARUS - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW POLITICS IMAGES OF THE DAY), Image: 456426235, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: , Model Release: no, Credit line: Forum, Reuters

The Belarusian authorities, together with representatives of the Council of Europe, plan to develop a road map of this process.

Four people last year, and already two this year, were shot in the name of the state through the death penalty. The number of those executed is not made public, nor is the an exact figure given to the public.

Belarus allows for possible moratorium on the use of the death penalty or even its abolition, said the other day a representative of the Directorate General of Human Rights and the rule of law of the Council of Europe, Tatiana Termačić.

“So far, it’s been a question of working out a joint roadmap with the Belarusian authorities on the abolition of the death penalty. We’ll see whether this will be transformed into a specific media campaign later on,” said Termačić.

The conference “Public Opinion and the Death Penalty” has brought together representatives of Europe, government agencies and civil society in Minsk.

“The main goal is not to campaign but to inform citizens on this topic. But what I can say for sure is that the number of supporters of the death penalty has decreased in our country. Since 1996, 23 years have passed,” says Alyaksandr Markevich of the House of Representatives Commission on Legislation.

In 1996, a referendum was held which left the death penalty in force. During these 23 years, two generations have changed, and the state has carried out 199 sentences. The company “Satio” conducted a survey in April in the middle-populated Belarusian cities. It was held at the request of the local human rights organizations: 31% of respondents are “firmly for” the death penalty, while another 40% – “rather for it”. Against are only 27%.

“Some questions can and should be put to the referendum, but the death penalty is not one of such areas, as public opinion on this matter is very volatile and emotional,” said the Chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Aleh Hulak.

It depends on the sources through which compatriots hear about the death penalty. Instead of showing “death sentences” in the style of “for what”, representatives of the European community urge the media to mention the inhumanity and ineffectiveness of this type of punishment, which should be removed from the law.

“If this step is taken, it will improve relations and remove many claims, which the European Community has against Belarus,” adds Hulak.

The application of the death penalty does not allow Belarus to claim membership in the Council of Europe, spoiling the political and investment climate of the country.

Yulia Tselpuk, Belsat, photo – Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters/Forum

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