Initiative “Human Rights Defenders against Torture” talked with Andrei Paluda, the human rights defender who will represent her interests in the UN Human Rights Committee, and asked to tell more about the actual circumstances of the case.
“Pavel Sialiun, the native son of Tamara Sialiun, was sentenced to capital punishment. When the lawyer went to visit him in the jail №1, where he was waiting for the execution by shooting, she was told that he “departed according to the verdict.” At the same time, nobody informed the mother about the fate of her son, actually during a month she was completely unaware of his destiny.
After several requests to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, to the Department of Corrections of the Republic of Belarus, to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus, asking to inform her about the fate of her son, to return his personal belongings, to show the place of the burial or return his body for burial in accordance with the traditions of the family, Tamara Sialiun received a reply from the Grodno regional Court, where it was reported that the sentence against her son was executed and that the body cannot be given for burial and the place of burial cannot be disclosed. Instead of the personal belongings of her son, Tamara Sialiun received a postal parcel containing special uniform with the mark “CP” – Capital Punishment. In this uniform her son spent more than a year in a “corridor of death”, she repeatedly saw him wearing it during personal meetings, including the last time when she saw him alive.
After seeing this clothing, Tamara Sialiun experienced strong psychological stress; she chopped the clothes (pants, jacket, hat and shoes) with an axe and burned them near her home. Until now, even after time passed, she is still under the strong psychological impression and argues that memories about this situation bring her severe psychological suffering,”- said human rights defender.
What regards internal legal remedies, Tamara Sialiun appealed to the Court of Leninsky district of Grodno, to the Grodno Regional Court, to the judicial board on civil cases of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus, to the President of the Supreme Court and to the regional Prosecutor of Grodno. In addition, at the national level Tamara Sialiun attempted to initiate a case before the Constitutional Court of Belarus on the issue of checking the Article 175 of the Criminal Executive Code, which prohibits the disclosure of information about the place of burial of the executed people, for compliance with the Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“Unfortunately, the competent state bodies of the Republic of Belarus believe, that the refusal to declassify burial sites of executed people in the country does not violate the right of their relatives not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Therefore Tamara Sialiun had to appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. It should be noted, that the Committee has frequently found a violation of the Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the decisions taken on similar complaints of Belarusian citizens; the Committee obliged the Republic of Belarus to inform the relatives of executed about the burial places of their children and to prevent similar violations in the future. However, such legislation and the practice of its implementation has not yet been changed. And because of that, relatives of executed ones, as in the case of Tamara Sialiun, continue to become victims of the inhuman treatment,” – says Andrei Paluda.
After the death sentence decision on 19 May (the third one since the beginning of the 2016) towards resident of Gomel Siarhei Vostrykau, Belarus justice system took kind of timeout. The campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus“, which conducts monitoring of the situation with the death penalty, has an opinion that such break is most likely connected to the election campaign: the authorities really do not want to irritate the electorate at this time with loud trials and verdicts.
Human rights defender Andrei Paluda also said that on 3 August the UN Human Rights Committee has confirmed the registration of an individual communication submitted on behalf of Siarhei Khmialeuski, who was sentenced to death. The Committee urges the Belarusian authorities to suspend the execution of Siarhei Khmialeuski while his case is pending before the Committee. In his communication Siarhei Khmialeuski claims that he was tortured and experienced other unlawful methods of influence, which as a result led to self-incrimination.