Supreme Court quashes death sentence in double murder case
The Supreme Court has overturned a death sentence earlier handed down to Viktar Skrundzik, 29, on charges of involvement in the murder of two elderly people near the city of Sluck in January 2019. The case will sent for a re-trial at the Minsk Regional Court.
Viktar Skrundzik was sentenced to death on March 6, following a trial involving two more defendants who were eventually sentenced to 18 and 22 years in prison.
The defendant argued that he did not kill the victims, but was forced to confess to the crimes after death threats from his accomplice. The convict’s lawyer also stressed that her client’s procedural rights were repeatedly violated.
Despite the fact that the death sentence is not yet final, during today’s appeal hearing, Skrundzik was wearing prison clothes with a gunsight and the letters “ИМН” (an exceptional measure of punishment) on his back. The UN Human Rights Committee has repeatedly criticized Belarus for using the marked uniform.
Belarusian abolition campaigners have welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision.
“There were a lot of contradictions in the case, which were emphasized by Viktar Skrundzik’s lawyer in the appeal and at today’s hearing,” Andrei Paluda, coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus”, said in a comment.