Why is the death penalty in Belarus such a huge issue for the EU?

Rosemary Thomas, British Ambassador in Belarus
Rosemary Thomas, British Ambassador in Belarus

Living and travelling around Belarus, I see  poignant reminders everywhere of the scale of sacrifice and suffering of this nation during the Second World War.  You get a strong sense of this at Brest Fortress, at Khatyn, at the many memorials around Minsk. But it is at events with veterans and survivors where you feel it most acutely of all – the still-raw wounds of that hideous period in Europe's history.  

In the aftermath of the war, Europeans strove to heal these wounds and to work to ensure that such horrors would never again shame our continent.  At the heart of this work was the need to restate our faith that each man has an inherent human dignity which is precious to us all.  To denigrate this dignity is to denigrate us all.  This is why Europe has worked progressively to eliminate the death penalty on our continent.    The progress in recent years has been remarkable; by 2009 every European country, with just one exception, has either abolished or declared a moratorium on capital punishment.  That exception is Belarus, where the most recent executions took place in July.

Eliminating the death penalty would do much to speed up Belarus' European integration through opening the way to membership of the Council of Europe, a pan-continental institution with its HQ in Strasbourg.  Membership of the Council would be a strategic win for Belarus, giving greater depth and  a wider horizon for its declared multi-vector foreign policy.  Most of all, it would give Belarusians more choices and more tools to achieve the kind of society they want.

The time will surely come when Belarus will take its place at the Council, but before that, we will celebrate one of the most remarkable events in European history - the day when Europe becomes the first death penalty-free continent in the world.   A day when a small country at the heart of our continent will help Europe reach its crowning achievement and at the same time to finally realise our dream of a common Europe, whole and free.

Rosemary Thomas, British Ambassador in Belarus

Book «Capital punishment in Belarus»


Death verdics in Belarus since 1990