Amnesty International: Belarus remains the only country in Europe carrying out executions
Amnesty International published its annual review of the death penalty. This report covers the judicial use of the death penalty for the period January to December 2021. Belarus remains the only country in Europe carrying out executions, the author of the report stress.
Amnesty International has received a report confirming that authorities in Belarus executed Viktar Paulau in May. Vitebsk Regional Court confirmed, in August, the execution to Paulau’s family, by providing a death certificate. The UN Huan Rights Committee had requested Belarus not to execute Viktar Paulau while it was examining the case; in similar cases, the Committee has found this to be a violation of Belarus’ obligations as a state party to the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In July 2019, the Vitebsk Regional Court convicted and sentenced Viktar Paulau to death for murder. The Supreme Court then upheld his conviction and death sentence in November 2019.
In September, the government-controlled broadcaster STV reported that Viktar Skrundzik had been executed. The same month, his sister confirmed that the last time she received correspondence from Viktar was on 19 August and she feared he had been executed. By the end of 2021, the authorities had not confirmed the execution to the family. The Minsk Regional Court convicted and re-sentenced Viktar to death at a retrial in January for the murders of two older people.
In April, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka granted clemency to brothers Illia Kostseu, 22 years old, and Stanislau Kostseu, 20. The two brothers had been under sentence of death since January 2020 after the Mahilyou Regional Court convicted them of murder. The family confirmed the two men had been transferred to a regular prison in Žodzina and in August they made their first visit.123 The Human Rights Center Viasna confirmed the death sentences were commuted to life sentences but no other information has been disclosed. Since Alyaksandr Lukashenka came to power in 1994 there has only been one other known case of clemency granted to a person facing execution.
Viktar Serhil was the only person known to be on death row at the end of 2021. However, he was at imminent risk of execution after his conviction and death sentence were upheld by the Supreme Court in January 2020.
In her report in May, among other observations, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus continued to raise concerns about the secrecy in which executions were carried out in Belarus. She highlighted that authorities in Belarus continued to execute people sentenced to death without giving prior notice to prisoners or their families. Additionally, the authorities did not disclose to the families the place of burial after the executions took place.
In July, the UN Human Rights Committee adopted its views in the case of Aleksei Mikhalenya, concluding that Belarus violated Mikhalenya’s right to life, the right to individual liberty and the right to a fair trial guaranteed under articles 6, 9(3), 14(2) and (3)(e) of the ICCPR. Despite the fact that in February 2018 the Committee asked Belarus not to execute Aleksei Mikhalenya while his complaint was being considered, the prisoner was executed in Minsk in the same year; authorities in Belarus have not disclosed the exact date. The Committee concluded that by not respecting its request for interim measures, Belarus violated its obligations as a state party to the First Optional Protocol to the Covenant.