The EU and Council of Europe have urged Belarus to put a moratorium on the capital punishment after the Vitsebsk Regional Court found Viktar Paulau guilty of double murder and sentenced him to death in late July.
“Commuting the remaining death sentences and introducing a moratorium on the death penalty would be a positive first step towards its abolition. Tangible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal human rights, including on the death penalty, remain key for shaping the EU’s future policy towards Belarus,” Maja Kocijancic, Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said.
Although the European Union expressed its sympathy to the families and friends of the victims, it strongly condems Belarus’ resorting to death penalty.
“Belarus is the only Country in all Europe that still executes people. The death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to crime, and any errors become irreversible. It is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and a violation of the right to life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the statement reads.
Death is not justice, Daniel Holtgen, Spokesman for CoE Secretary General, stressed.
We condemn the death sentence pronounced today by the Vitebsk Regional Court in #Belarus. Death is not justice. We reiterate our call on the authorities to impose a moratorium on the application of #deathpenalty as the first step towards its abolition.
— Daniel Holtgen (@CoESpokesperson) July 30, 2019
The West has repeatedly called on the Belarusian authorities to join a global moratorium as a first step towards the abolition of death penalty.
The exact number of executions in Belarus is unknown, but local human rights defenders and journalists have worked tirelessly to uncover some information about death sentences and executions. According to the Ministry of Justice of Belarus, 245 people were sentenced to death from 1994 to 2014. Human rights NGOs believe that around 400 people have been executed since the country gained its independence in 1991; president Lukashenka granted a pardon to only one convict.