Viasna again calls to halt executions at PACE event on World Day against the Death Penalty
On October 10, the issue of ongoing executions in Belarus was discussed at a meeting of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly pf the Council of Europe. The event was scheduled to mark the World Day against the Death Penalty. The discussion involved Valery Varanetski, chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and deputy chairperson of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich.
The Belarusian MP noted the complexity of the issue with the abolition of the death penalty, saying that Belarus will gradually arrive at solving the problem. He also recalled the results of the 1996 referendum, when the majority of citizens (82%) spoke in favor of retaining the death penalty, and referred to a gradual change in public opinion, recalling that 52% of citizens still support the punishment.
Valiantsin Stefanovich mentioned the recent death sentences that were handed down in January and the executions reported in May, highlighting some of the issues that continue to be criticized by human rights activists. These include the secrecy of executions, ban on collecting the bodies of executed prisoners, the impossibility to challenge death sentences handed down by the Supreme Court, as well as the rapid enforcement of the sentences, usually taking place within a year after the trial.
“On this year’s World Day against the Death Penalty, I, as a citizen of Belarus, personally and as a representative of the civil society, once again urge the Belarusian authorities to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty, as it primarily serves the interests of the Belarusian society,” Stefanovich said.
Following the meeting, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights adopted a statement “reaffirming its commitment to fighting for the universal abolition of capital punishment, which is cruel, inhuman and degrading.”
“This year, executions have again been carried out in Belarus, the United States and Japan, and new death sentences have been handed down both in these countries and in the territories administered by the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. The Committee strongly condemns these executions and death sentences,” it said.
According to PACE, over the past 12 months, more than 1,000 people were executed in 23 countries. The top executioners include China, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan.