Prisoner executions in Belarus ‘simply unacceptable’, says UN rights body

UN Photo/Emmanuel Hungrecker The UN Human Rights Committee meets at UN Office at Geneva.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

The continued use of the death penalty in Belarus has been condemned by an authoritative UN rights body after three men were reportedly executed there, despite its requests for clemency.

The Human Rights Committee, one of 10 UN treaty bodies that meet regularly in Geneva, had appealed to Belarus not to carry out sentencing on Aleksei Mikhalenya, Semyon Berezhnoi and Igor Gershankov, while it examined their cases.

Since 2010, Belarus has executed 13 people whose cases were under examination by the UN panel, it said in a joint statement with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, and the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

“The repetitive failure of Belarus to respect the Committee’s procedures …is simply unacceptable,” said Yuval Shany, committee chairperson.

“The fact that such failures occur in the context of capital cases which implicate the right to life, and which the Committee considers to be the ’supreme right’, is particularly unconscionable.”

The prisoners were executed in May and November this year, according to the committee.

All three had been found guilty of murder, although “all three cases contain allegations of torture in detention and forced confessions”.

In line with standard practice, relatives of the dead were “ignorant of the time and circumstances” of their death, the committee said, while their bodies were also not returned to their families – “an additional, useless pain”.

Belarus remains the last country in Europe and Central Asia that applies the death penalty, according to the Human Rights Committee.

In its latest report on Belarus published in November 2018, the UN panel emphasized that Belarus “should consider establishing a moratorium on executions as an initial step towards legal abolition of the death penalty”.

The country should also commit to abolishing the death penalty by ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it urged, “commute all pending death sentences to imprisonment and increase efforts to change public perception about the necessity of maintaining the death penalty”.

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