Andrei Paluda on the death penalty: “Without systemic changes, there will be no serious progress in solving the problem”
The annual Week Against the Death Penalty will be held in Belarus for the ninth time from October 5 to 10. It is organized on the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty, October 10, and is run by the campaign “Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty in Belarus”.
Andrei Paluda, human rights defender of Viasna and coordinator of the campaign, explains why there will be no serious changes with the death penalty, unless the issue undergoes systemic developments.
“Today we are launching our annual Week Against the Death Penalty. Despite all the hardships we have gone through recently and which still remain a challenge for us, we stand firm on fundamental principles of humanism and human rights-based approach.
It’s been nine years since we started highlighting this problem. Unfortunately, its relevance for Belarus is not diminishing, despite some very moderately positive things that have happened this year in the context of the death penalty.
We witnessed the pardon of the Kostseu brothers and a fairly active discussion of changes in the Criminal Code at the beginning of the year, which could have led to the removal of the from domestic laws. These changes, however, were never materialized. The discussion itself aroused some skepticism from the very beginning, as it took place against the background of this year’s first death sentence handed down to Viktar Skrundzik. And then all this was further crossed out by information about the likely executions of Viktar Paulau and Viktar Skrundzik, while the fate of Viktar Serhel is still unknown.
All these things further confirm that without systemic changes in the abolition of the death penalty, there will be no major progress in solving the problem, and there will be more news about death sentences and executions.
It should be remembered that the issue of the death penalty is not just a problem of human rights defenders or people affected by this type of punishment. The existence of the death penalty has a very strong impact on the whole society, on each of us. It unleashes a spiral of hatred and violence. The death penalty is an element of the system of violence. Violence, which, as we can see now, permeates our entire society.
The murder of a person always remains a murder, regardless of whether it was committed by a court ruling or without it. The death penalty is evil.”
Belarus is the last country in Europe and in the post-Soviet region that still executes people. The campaign “Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty in Belarus” was launched in 2009 with the aim of ending this inhumane form of punishment and introducing European values. In 2018, the initiative received the national Human Rights Community Award in the nomination “Human Rights Campaign of the Year”. The annual Week Against the Death Penalty is part of the campaign.