We strongly protest against expansion of the death penalty in Belarus
On April 27, the House of Representatives of the National Assembly passed in two readings a bill amending the Criminal Code, which expands the use of the death penalty. In particular, it suggests applying the death penalty for preparation and attempt of the crimes specified in Part 2 of Article 124 (Act of terrorism against a representative of a foreign state or international organization), Part 3 of Article 126 (Act of international terrorism), Part 3 of Article 289 (Act of terrorism), and Part 2 of Article 359 (Act of terrorism against a state or public figure) of the Criminal Code. On May 4, the draft bill was approved by the Council of the Republic.
We note that no clear justification for the need to expand the scope of the death penalty is presented to society. However, state media comments reveal that their purpose is to influence protest activities against the participation of the Republic of Belarus in Russia's aggression against Ukraine and the use of our country's infrastructure and territory to assist the aggressor. At the same time, it is necessary to take into account that Belarusian citizens are deprived of their legal right to influence the authorities on such an important issue that directly affects their interests.
We demand that the Belarusian authorities observe their international obligations regarding the right to life. We recall that Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Republic of Belarus is a party, provides that the death penalty may be imposed only for the most severe crimes. The Human Rights Committee clarified in its General Comment No. 36 that the term “the most serious crimes” must be read restrictively and appertain only to crimes of extreme gravity, involving intentional killing. The Committee also emphasized that, since the death penalty cannot be reconciled with full respect for the right to life, states should be on an irrevocable path towards complete eradication of the death penalty, de facto and de jure. It is contrary to the object and purpose of article 6 for states parties to take steps to increase de facto the rate and extent in which they resort to the death penalty, or to reduce the number of pardons and commutations they grant.
We call attention to the critical inadmissibility of the use and threat of the death penalty as an instrument of political pressure.
Expanding the use of the death penalty, especially in conditions of legal default in the country, creates the preconditions for grave abuses, arbitrary use of an exceptional measure of punishment, and deprivation of human life.
Human rights defenders have consistently advocated the need to abolish the death penalty, including in connection with the possibility of miscarriage of justice. We are convinced that it is the inevitability, not the severity of punishment, that is the deterrent to crime.
Based on the above, we demand that the Belarusian authorities:
- refrain from amending legislation aimed at expanding the use of the death penalty;
- ensure compliance with its international human rights obligations by guaranteeing respect for the right to life and striving for the complete abolition of the death penalty, rather than expanding its scope.
We also call on international organizations to publicly condemn the intentions of the Belarusian authorities and to persuade them to abandon plans to expand the use of the death penalty in Belarus.
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Human Rights Center Viasna
Human rights defenders against the death penalty Public campaign