Belarus in focus at OSCE event on the death penalty
Amnesty International and FIDH continue to raise the issue of the death penalty at international fora, as another thematic event has been held within the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw. The side event involved human rights activists from Belarus, one of the two OSCE countries that still execute death convicts.
The side event under the title “Secrecy Surrounding the Death Penalty Application in Belarus” was co-organized by FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and the Human Rights Center "Viasna". The list of speakers included Aliaksandra Yakavitskaya, daughter of Henadz Yakavitski, a death row prisoner executed in 2016. The event was attended by Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, representatives of EU embassies and the Belarusian embassy in Warsaw.
“Few people outside Belarus, but also inside Belarus, know, for example, that authorities deliberately withdraw information on the death penalty, on death convictions and executions, that death convicts are being detained in conditions that amount to torture, isolated from the public, but also very often from their lawyers and family members. Few people know about the anguish that the family members are undergoing and about the right to know their relative's execution in advance and not being informed immediately after the execution,” said Julia Ouahnon of FIDH’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk.
Andrei Paluda, coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty in Belarus,” said in his speech that the campaign’s activists tirelessly repeat the same thing: “Belarus is the last country in Europe that practices the death penalty”. This is, unfortunately, our sad reality, Paluda said. The human rights activist reminded that about 400 people were executed since Belarus gained its independence in 1991. He also stressed that the figure is not accurate, since the issue of the death penalty still involves much secrecy.
The human rights activist also spoke about the problems associated with the exercise the death convict’s rights to enjoy international human rights mechanisms, as the Belarusian government continues to ignore its obligations under international human rights law. He mentioned the recent case of Henadz Yakavitski: the Human Rights Committee registered his complaint and urged the government of Belarus not to execute the convict. However, Yakavitski was shot in November 2016. His daughter Aliaksandra Yakavitskaya told about the suffering that she endured after her father was sentenced to death.
Ales Bialiatski, head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", told about the conditions in which the death convicts are held in the Minsk-based detention center No. 1 (aka Valadarka). After his arrest in 2011, the human rights activist was detained in the Valadarka prison and has his personal vision of what is happening on death row.