Amnesty International: 657 people executed in 2019, Belarus kills at least 2
In 2019, global executions fell by 5%, hitting a 10-year low, Amnesty International said in its annual overview of the death penalty around the world.
“However, a small number of countries defied the global trend away from the death penalty by increasingly resorting to executions. Saudi Arabia’s growing use of the death penalty, including as a weapon against political dissidents, is an alarming development. Also shocking was the massive jump in executions in Iraq, which nearly doubled in just one year,” said Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research, Advocacy and Policy.
The top five executing countries in 2019 were: China (1000s); Iran (at least 251); Saudi Arabia (184); Iraq (at least 100) and Egypt (at least 32).
Amnesty’s figures do not include China, where the number of executions, believed to be in the thousands, remains classified.
In Belarus, China and Viet Nam, data on the use of the death penalty is classified as a state secret.
In Europe and Central Asia, Belarus continued to be the last country to impose and implement death sentences, with at least two men executed and three new death sentences pronounced in 2019.
In June, Belarus executed Aliaksandr Zhylnikau. His co-defendant, Viachaslau Sukharko, is believed to have also been executed at the same time as Alyaksandr Zhylnikau, but authorities had not issued official confirmation as of the end of the year.
Aliaksandr Asipovich was executed in December.
In July, the Viciebsk Regional Court sentenced to death Viktar Paulau. The Supreme Court upheld the decision in November putting him at imminent risk of execution.
In October, the Brest Regional Court sentenced to death Viktar Serhil.
Viktar Paulau and Viktar Serhil were the only two people known to be on death row at the end of 2019.
In his report in December, the General Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe continued to raise concerns about the secrecy in which executions were carried out in Belarus. He highlighted that authorities continued to execute people sentenced to death without giving prior notice to prisoners, their families or their lawyers. Furthermore, families were unable to recover the body of the executed family member or even find out where they were buried. He also expressed concern that “many death sentences are passed at the end of unfair trials during which proof of guilt is provided by ‘confessions’ drawn up after the use of torture or in the absence of any defence counsel.”
In her report in May, among other concerns, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus noted the violations of human rights associated with the use of the death penalty in Belarus. Although she welcomed the work of the parliamentary working group on the question of the death penalty established in early 2017, she highlighted that no progress had been recorded at the time of her report and emphasized that it is clear that “achieving significant change requires political will and leadership.” She urged the Belarusian government to reconsider its official line that the death penalty should be maintained until a majority of the population supports its abolition and added that a referendum is not needed where a moratorium can be decided either by the President or the parliament.