“No more fear they can be taken out for execution”. The Kostseu brothers meet with family for first time after pardon

Stanislau and Illia Kostseu on trial. Photo: onliner.by
Stanislau and Illia Kostseu on trial. Photo: onliner.by

Illia Kostseu and Stanislau Kostseu, two brothers and former death row prisoners, have been allowed to see their family for the first time since they were pardoned in April 2021, according to their sister Hanna. However, their mother and sister have not yet received any official confirmation of Stanislau and Illia’s death sentence being commuted to life in prison.

According to Hanna, her brothers are held separately in the Žodzina prison, but sharing cells with other people sentenced to life imprisonment.

“Applying an act of pardon to the Kostseu brothers once again underscores one of the arguments we have repeatedly voiced within our campaign: the death penalty has absolutely no effect on anything other than simply taking a person’s life. Here is an example: pardoning the brothers did not end this world. We can confidently say that it has had no effect on other criminals and their intention to commit something illegal, and did not affect the number of new serious crimes. Meanwhile, the two men are alive and can think about what they have done,” Andrei Paluda, coordinator of “Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty in Belarus”, said in a comment.

Paluda notes that this is the first pardon in the lifetime of the national campaign.

The prison conditions for the brothers have now significantly improved compared to the dire environment of the country’s only death row in pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Minsk. According to their sister, the main thing is that now they do not feel the daily emotional pressure fearing that they can be picked up at any moment and taken out to be executed.

Now the Kostseu brothers have the right to two four-hour family visits a year, to spend 29 rubles in the prison shop a month, and to receive parcels of up to 50 kilograms a year. They are also entitled to one phone call once every six months.

The prisoners are also entitled to daily outside walks lasting thirty minutes. Back on the death row, they were never taken out into the fresh air. According to law, they must be provided with conditions for self-education in prison.

Illia and Stanislau Kostseu, 20 and 22, are brothers from the city of Čerykaŭ. On January 10, 2020, they were sentenced to death for killing a schoolteacher and setting fire to her house.

The European Union and the Council of Europe condemned the death sentences and once again called on the Belarusian authorities to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty. Amnesty International launched an urgent action to help to save the lives of the two brothers.

On May 22, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentences. Then the family wrote to the president asking for pardon.

On April 30, it became known that Stanislau and Illia had been pardoned and their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

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Death verdics in Belarus since 1990