10 October – World Day against the Death Penalty

On 10 October the 11th anniversary of the World Day Against the Death Penalty was marked. Civil society activists from different countries reminded the international community about the absurdity of this kind of punishment and the cruelty of executions.

In 2007, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, founded the European Day against the Death Penalty, which is marked annually on 10 October. It is the contribution of the European countries to the World Day against the Death Penalty.

Supporters of the abolitionism movement oppose the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, characteristics of the offender and the way in which the state takes the life of the convicted person.They regard the death penalty as an extreme form of deprivation of a person’s rights – through the deliberate taking of life by the state. This is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Belarus is the last country in Europe that still practices the death penalty. The death sentence in Belarus is executed by shooting by a special police unit in jail number 1 in Minsk. Just like in Soviet times, the date and time of execution is not reported, the body is not given to the relatives and the place of burial is not disclosed.

This practice has been repeatedly criticized by both Belarusian and international human rights organizations. The UN Human Rights Committee has three times recognized this practice an inhumane, cruel and inhuman treatment and violation by Belarus of Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The latest decision was issued by the Committee in the case of Uladzislau Kavaliou, who was executed on March 15, 2011.

The secrecy with regard to the issue of the death penalty in the country should be stressed out. Representatives of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus”, launched in 2009, said, that only the number of passed and executed death verdicts is known to them. Thus, since 1990 Belarus enforced death sentences against 329 persons. Of these, 281 were convicted between 1990 and 1999. After 1999, there has been a trend to a sharp decrease in the number of convictions. For example, from 2000 to 2013, 50 death sentences have been passed. This fact, in the first place, is due to the appearance in the Criminal Code of Belarus in 1998 an alternative form of punishment of the death penalty – life imprisonment.

“The death penalty is unfair and useless. No system of justice is immune to miscarriages of justice or an unfair trial. Not all persons condemned to death are provided with the opportunity to have a decent defense in court. Finally, the existence of the death penalty in society has never helped to reduce the number of murders or other violent acts. Imagine that a murderer has confessed to his crimes and the evidence of his guilt in court cannot be questioned. Should he still die? No.      Our societies must look for other solutions and offer legal alternatives to the capital punishment, “- is said in a joint statement of Valiantsin Stefanovich (Human Rights Center “Viasna”), Karim Lahidji (FIDH), Florence Bellivier (FIDH) and Robert Badinter, French lawyer known for his struggle against the death penalty in France, the abolition of which he successfully achieved in Parliament on 30 September, 1981.

Individual appeal of the death convict Pavel Seliun registered at the UN

On 10 October during the press-conference of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus” it became known, that the UN registered the appeal of Pavel Seliun, who was сonvicted to the death penalty.Andrei Poluda, who is the trustee of the convict, informed about this fact.

In connection with this, an appeal was directed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus to inform that the individual appeal of Pavel Mikalayevich Seliun was registered by the UN Human Rights Committee under No. 2289/2013. “In accordance with rule 92 of the Rules of Procedure, the state should not execute a death sentence until the consideration of the individual communication on its merits,” the human rights defenders remind the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

In these appeals human rights defenders ask not to execute the death sentence before the consideration of Seliun’s individual communication by the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations Organization.

The monitoring function in this case belongs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Therefore, the human rights defenders also ask Foreign Minister to inform the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs about the registration of the individual communication of Pavel Seliun by the UN Human Rights Committee, as well as to monitor the implementation of international treaties of the Republic of Belarus by these state agencies and provide them with the necessary assistance in this respect.

The need to send such appeals to the aforementioned state institutions is due to the fact that previous death sentences were executed by the state before the consideration of their communications by the Human Rights Committee, regardless the interim protection measures requested by the Committee.

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