Tsikhanouskaya: “Activists live in fear of being shot dead”
The 8th World Congress against the Death Penalty is taking place in Berlin. The first day, November 15, included a discussion of the instrumentalization of the death penalty for political purposes. Belarus and Iran were mentioned as the current challenges to the abolitionist movement.
Sierra Leone canceled death penalty, while Belarus still resist
New challenges emerge over time regarding the death penalty. They become a topic for the World Congress. This time, two countries came into the spotlight, Iran and Belarus.
In Iran, capital punishment is now being used against protesters, while the authorities in Belarus have widened its scope.
On the bright side, the number of countries that have abolished the death penalty is growing. Thus, Sierra Leone has recently repealed this type of punishment. The coordinator of the Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty in Belarus campaign Andrei Paluda, who is taking part in the Congress, comments:
“There is quite a lot of activity going on right now in Africa and steps are being taken to make the death penalty a thing of the past in many countries on the continent.”
Belarus: “Activists live in fear of being shot dead”
On the first day of the 8th World Congress, there was a discussion about using capital punishment as a political tool. The democratic leader of Belarus Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told the congress participants about how this happens in Belarus in her video address:
“The regime in Belarus is using the death penalty as a tool of repression and a tool of intimidation against the people. If earlier the fear of the death penalty was abstract and distant, now many political activists live in fear of being shot dead. [ ... ] This year the regime has put three more articles on the list of mortal crimes. Now, the person can be sentenced to death for an attempt to carry out an act of terrorism. It is basically the thought-crime punishment,” said Tsikhanouskaya. “The death penalty in Belarus is a real threat to those who resist Russian occupation and shows solidarity with Ukraine: for our brave partisans who sabotage railways to stop Russian troops, for those who join the resistance or even donate to the Ukraine army.”
Belarusian delegation arrived in a shorter lineup
The World Congress against the Death Penalty takes place every three years. It brings together politicians, witnesses to the death penalty (lawyers and former convicts), and human rights organizations’ representatives.
“We have always been a regular participant in the Congress,” says Andrei Paluda. “It is important for us because the Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty campaign in Belarus is part of the larger abolitionist movement around the world. Many people know us well.”
However, usually, the Belarusian delegation of human rights defenders at the World Congress used to be bigger, stresses Andrei Paluda:
“Unfortunately, our colleagues Valiantsin Stefanovic and Ales Bialiatski, who participated in previous congresses, are now in prison. That's why our delegation is reduced in size.”