EU, CoE, PACE, Amnesty International condemn executions in Belarus

Brussels and Strasbourg have released official comments on the recent execution of two death row prisoners in Belarus, Siamion Berazhnoy and Ihar Hershankou.

The European Union reaffirmed its “strong and unequivocal opposition to capital punishment in all circumstances.”

“The application of the death penalty runs counter to Belarus' stated willingness to engage on the matter with the international community, including the European Union. The introduction by the Belarusian authorities of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition would be a positive development. Tangible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal human rights, including on the death penalty, will remain key for shaping the EU's future policy towards Belarus,” said a statement by Maja Kocijancic, EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.

Council of Europe has condemned the executions by saying that “death is not justice” and “capital punishment has no proven dissuasive effect on the crime situation in any part of the world.”

“We reiterate our call on the authorities to impose a moratorium on the application of death penalty as the first step towards its abolition. This would remove the last obstacle on the way to the Council of Europe and bring Belarus closer to the universal values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” Spokesperson of the CoE Secretary General said.

Amnesty International strongly condemned the execution of Siamion Berazhnoy (the reaction came before human rights defenders learned about the execution of Ihar Hershankou).

“We are shocked to hear this news only weeks after our visit to Belarus to engage with the authorities there on their progress towards abolition of the death penalty,” said Marie Struthers, Director of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office. “We are gravely concerned for the welfare of Berazhnoy’s fellow prisoner, Ihar Hershankou. His family have not received any mail from him in over a month” Ms. Struthers continued. “The authorities must disclose his fate immediately.”

Amnesty International reiterated its call on Belarus to introduce an immediate moratorium on executions as the first crucial step towards abolition.

“While Belarus continues to engage with its population and the international community on the subject of abolition, we urge it to halt all executions as a clear sign that it is not business as usual on death row,” said Ms. Struthers.

On November 27, Belarusian human rights defenders and the media learned about the secret execution of Siamion Berazhnoy. The following day, the authorities confirmed the execution of Ihar Hershankou. Altogether four executions have been carried out this year. Two more people remain on death row in Belarus, Aliaksandr Zhylnikau and Viachaslau Sukharka.

UPD: The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has issued a statement to condemn the executions.

“The death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment, which is no longer acceptable in Europe. In addition, the secrecy surrounding executions in Belarus is a particularly deplorable practice, which causes strong psychological suffering to the family members of the condemned,” Yves Cruchten, PACE General Rapporteur on the abolition of the death penalty, and Ria Oomen-Ruijten, Chairperson of the Political Affairs Committee, said.

They concluded: “The establishment of a moratorium on executions is simply a matter of political will and does not require extensive institutional reforms. We reiterate our call on the Belarusian authorities to take all necessary measures to stop the use of the death penalty and to introduce a moratorium on executions without delay.”

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Death verdics in Belarus since 1990