“Blood for Blood” vs Right to Life: Supreme Court to choose.
On October 18, the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus considered the cassation appeal of Aliaksandr Hrunou sentenced to death by the verdict of the Homel Regional Court of 14 June, 2013.
Aliaksandr Hrunou was sentenced to death on charges of violating Par. 6.2, Article 139 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus.
During today’s session, the judges of the Supreme Court hear all the parties involved. The mother of the dead girl and a representative of the General Prosecutor's Office supported the retention of the death penalty for Aliaksandr Hrunou. The convict himself, though admitting his guilt, expressed his disagreement with the qualification of the crime, which impacted the verdict, and said that he had no intent to murder "with extreme cruelty." The defense stresses the fact that “it is the testimony of Hrunou that were the basis of such a severe sentence,” but the trial court did not accept his confession to the crime and readiness to cooperate with the investigation as extenuating circumstances.
Protecting the right to life enshrined in Article 24 of the Constitution and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), defense lawyer Siarhei Krasnou stressed that the Belarusian Criminal Law provides, in addition to the death penalty, other types of punishment – imprisonment for up to twenty-five years or life imprisonment.
The counsel, referring to the rules of international law and related rules of national law, cited a number of violations, as reflected in the materials of the criminal case, which the court of first instance failed to take into account.
In particular, the lawyer spoke of the violation of the presumption of innocence against his client (Article 26 of the Constitution and paragraph 2 of Art. 14 of the ICCPR), the violation of the principle of equal protection and adversarial proceedings (Article 22 of the Constitution and Article 24 of the Code for Criminal Procedures), noting that there was a contradiction associated with the psychological and psychiatric examination of the defendant.
“Imposition of the capital punishment – the death penalty – on the basis of a full confession and cooperation with the investigation, along with a failure to secure his right to counsel, the fact that Hrunou was found sane by the court of first instance, with the above contradiction of the examination and evidence about the actual state of his health, constitutes a violation of the right to a fair trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal,” said the lawyer.
He pointed to another point that occurred immediately after the verdict, which, according to him, was ignored by everyone, “When the verdict of the Judicial Board of the Homel Regional Court had not yet entered into force, Hrunou was already held in solitary confinement on death row in the detention center of Homel, where he was forced to wear clothing with the inscription “CP” (capital punishment) on the back, that is, "the death penalty", so he experienced such a treatment as if the outcome of the case and his fate had been already decided...”
Lawyer Siarhei Krasnou urged the judges to be “guided only by the law and not emotions,” when taking the final decision. “The principle of retaliation “Blood for Blood” is a relic of the past,” said he.
The decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Aliaksandr Hrunou will be announced on October 22.