EU, CoE, PACE call for moratorium in response to new execution in Belarus

The spokespersons of the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the CoE’s Parliamentary Assembly have once again called on the Belarusian authorities to introduce a moratorium on executions in Belarus. The statements were released after the news came of another execution in the continent’s last retentionist country.

Aliaksandr Asipovich, earlier sentenced to death on “aggravated murder” charges, was reportedly executed on December 17.

The European bodies responded by saying that the death penalty “violates the inalienable right to life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

“Capital punishment also fails to act as a deterrent to crime,” European Union External Action Spokesperson said.

“We deplore another reported execution in Belarus. We call on Belarus to abolish the death penalty, or at least introduce a moratorium. Death is not justice,” Daniel Holtgen, the Council of Europe Spokesperson, tweeted on December 19.

Titus Corlatean, PACE General Rapporteur on the abolition of the death penalty, deplored the execution in a statement.

“It has been made crystal clear that relations with the Council of Europe cannot improve until executions cease. Once again, I urge the government to declare an immediate moratorium as a first step to abolition,” he said.

Belarus’s reluctance to abandon executions has been highlighted in OSCE's new report on the death penalty in 2019.

The report stresses that officials in Belarus have cited public opinion as a reason to defer the abolition of the death penalty. However, public debate appears to be limited in Belarus, probably due to the distinct lack of information available regarding the application of the death penalty, “as it is virtually absent in the state print and electronic media.”

The official line is that Belarus will not abolish the death penalty until a majority of the population supports this move. This is despite no apparent government initiatives to measure public opinion since a referendum in 1996. Both international experts and local human rights activists maintain that it is the government who should lead the debate and work on changing perceptions to favor the abolition of the death penalty.

“Belarus and the United States continue to be the only two retentionist participating States in the OSCE region, maintaining the application of the death penalty both in law and in practice,” the report said.

The difficulty in obtaining information regarding the death penalty in Belarus is due to Belarus continuing to classify data on the use of the death penalty a “state secret”. Furthermore, the effect that this lack of transparency can have on relatives of death row inmates causes unnecessary “pain and sorrow.”

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Death verdics in Belarus since 1990