UN Human Rights Committee condemns execution of Victor Pavlov
The UN Human Rights Committee on Thursday condemned Belarus for its execution of Victor Pavlov, whose petition was still being examined by the Committee. Victor Pavlov is the 15th person since 2010 whose execution had been carried out at the same time as the case was pending before the Human Rights Committee. The Committee had requested Belarus to halt his execution while the independent experts examined his allegations of human rights violations.
Pavlov was arrested on 3 January 2019 on suspicion of murder and larceny. He signed a confession on the same day without the presence of a lawyer. He was immediately remanded in custody by a prosecutor and was taken before a judge only five months later. He was sentenced to death by the Vitebsk Regional Court in July 2019. Following his appeal, the Supreme Court of Belarus upheld the trial court’s decision in November the same year.
After his unsuccessful appeal, he turned to the Human Rights Committee in 2020, claiming that he had been tortured in detention, denied access to legal assistance, and subjected to an unfair trial. The Committee registered Pavlov’s complaint and began the process to review his case.
In addition to reiterating its requests for suspending the execution, since June 2021, the Committee has repeatedly asked for clarification from Belarus on Pavlov’s situation in light of information it received that he had been executed behind closed doors. However, Belarus did not respond to the Committee’s various requests.
Recently, a domestic court finally informed Pavlov’s family that the death penalty had already been carried out, without providing any information about when he was executed or where he was buried.
In similar cases, the Committee has found that undisclosed execution is a breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“In death penalty cases, failure of a State party to provide relatives with information on the date of execution of an individual and burial site of the body leaves families in a state of uncertainty and mental distress, which constitutes a violation of the Covenant,” said Arif Bulkan, Vice-Chair of the Human Rights Committee.
The Committee also found Belarus’ failure to comply with its request for interim measures is a violation of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in which States parties are obliged to cooperate with the Committee in good faith. The interim measures procedure under the Optional Protocol aims to stop a State party from taking any action that would have irreparable consequences. Belarus acceded the Optional Protocol in 1992.
Belarus remains the last country in Europe and Central Asia that applies the death penalty. In its last report on Belarus published in November 2018 (available in English and Russian), the Human Rights Committee emphasized that Belarus “should consider establishing a moratorium on executions as an initial step towards legal abolition of the death penalty and ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, commute all pending death sentences to imprisonment and increase efforts to change public perception about the necessity of maintaining the death penalty.”
Despite Victor Pavlov’s execution, the Human Rights Committee, as per its usual practice, will fully examine his case at one of its upcoming sessions.