Tamara Chikunova, known anti-death penalty campaigner, dies at 73

Tamara Chikunova, the world-renowned Uzbek activist of the global abolitionist movement, died in Italy on March 31, the Community of Sant'Egidio said.

Chikunova started campaigning in 1999, after her 29-year-old son Dmitry was unjustly sentenced to death and soon executed in Uzbekistan. The mother was not notified of the execution date and never said goodbye to her son. Moreover, in violation of Uzbek laws, she was not allowed to collect her son’s body.

Thanks to her active mediation and with the help of lawyers, Tamara Chikunova helped save the lives of 23 people sentenced to death, whose sentences were eventually commuted to life imprisonment or prison terms. Her activities, supported by the Community of Sant'Egidio at the international level, led to the abolition of the death penalty in Uzbekistan on January 1, 2008.

In 2000, Tamara Chikunova founded the non-governmental organization “Mothers Against Death Sentence and Torture”. The Uzbek NGO successfully campaigned for the abolition of the death penalty for eight years.

Tamara Chikunova's meeting with Pope Francis in September 2016
Tamara Chikunova's meeting with Pope Francis in September 2016

Tamara Chikunova was actively involved in the anti-death penalty campaign in Belarus, often visited our country, met with the families of death row prisoners and executed convicts, spoke at public meetings, appealed on behalf of her organization to the President of Belarus asking to pardon death convicts, took part in many events and exhibitions held by the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections in Belarus”.

For her tireless work, the human rights activist received a number of prestigious awards, including the German Nuremberg International Human Rights Award (2005), the Human Rights Award of the French Republic “Freedom - Equality – Brotherhood” (2005), the Medal of the Italian city of Genoa as part of the movement “Cities for life – Cities against the Death Penalty” (2009), and the French National Order of the Legion of Honor (2010). In 2005, Tamara Chikunova was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Valiantsin Stefanovich, Tamara Chikunova, Sonia
Valiantsin Stefanovich, Tamara Chikunova, Sonia "Sunny" Jacobs (U.S. death row exoneree) and Andrei Paluda at the 6th World Congress against the Death Penalty in Oslo. June 2016

The human rights defenders of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” are deeply saddened by the great loss suffered by the international abolitionist movement. The memory of Tamara Chikunova, the ardent fighter for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, including in Belarus, will forever remain in the hearts of Belarusian human rights activists!




Death verdics in Belarus since 1990