Death Penalty Database

Belarus

Information current as of: September 20, 2014

General

Official Country Name

Republic of Belarus. [1]

Geographical Region

Europe (Eastern Europe). [2]

Death Penalty Law Status

Retentionist. [3]

Methods of Execution

Shooting. [4]
The Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus states that all executions are by "firing squad." In practice, all executions are by a shot fired into the back of the head after the prisoner has been forced to his knees. [5]

Comments.
Typically, prisoners are executed within hours or even minutes of learning that their clemency application has been denied. [6] The authorities carry out executions in secret and refuse to release the bodies of executed prisoners to their families. Relatives may be informed of the execution by letter weeks or months after the event. Article 175 of the Criminal Executive Code of the Republic of Belarus also allows for the government not to communicate the place of burial of those executed to their relatives. [7] In October 2012, the U.N. Human Rights Committee found that this policy violates the human rights of the convicted and their families. [8]

References

[1] U.S. Dept. of State, Background Notes: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5371.htm, last accessed Mar. 18, 2012.
[2] U.N., Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings, http://unstats.un.org/unsd/methods/m49/m49regin.htm, Sep. 20, 2011.
[3] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, ACT 50/001/2012, Apr. 9, 2013.
[4] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, ACT 50/001/2012, Apr. 9, 2013.
[5] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, ACT 50/001/2012, Apr. 9, 2013. U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/52, Apr. 18, 2013.
[6] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, ACT 50/001/2012, Apr. 9, 2013.
[7] Amnesty Intl., Belarus: After death, the cruelty continues as bodies of two executed men still hidden, http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/belarus-after-death-cruelty-continues-bodies-two-executed-men-still-hidden, Mar. 14, 2013.
[8] Amnesyt Intl., Belarus: Man Sentenced to Death in Belarus, www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR49/009/2013/en/b689a9f1-1e39-4b0a-a522-9c38d5f31d8d/eur490092013en.html, Jun. 27, 2013.

Country Details

Language(s)

Belarusian and Russian [1]

Population

9,466,700. 9,466,700. [2]

Number of Individuals Currently Under Sentence of Death

104. [3] At least 3 death sentences have been handed down in 2013 so far. [4] It is difficult to obtain exact numbers as there is a lack of transparency about persons held on death row. [5]

Annual Number of Reported Executions

Executions in 2017 to date (last updated on October 18, 2017)

1. [6]

Executions in 2016

At least 4. [7]

Per capita execution rate in 2016

Executions in 2015

0. [8]

Per capita execution rate in 2015

0 executions.

Executions in 2014

At least 3. [9]

Per capita execution rate in 2014

1 execution per 3,155,566 persons

Executions in 2013

0. [10]

Per capita execution rate in 2013

0 executions

Executions in 2012

At least 3. [11]

Per capita execution rate in 2012

1 execution per 3,155,567 persons

Executions in 2011

2. [12]

Per capita execution rate in 2011

1 execution per 4,733,350 persons

Executions in 2010

2. [13]

Executions in 2009

0. [14]

Executions in 2008

4. [15]

Executions in 2007

1. [16]

Year of Last Known Execution

2017. [17]

References

[1] U.S. Dept. of State, Background Notes: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5371.htm, last accessed Mar. 18, 2012.
[2] U.S. Dept. of State, Background Notes: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5371.htm, last accessed Mar. 18, 2012 (population as of Nov. 1, 2011).
[3] Mark Warren, The Death Penalty Worldwide: Estimated Death Row Populations, http://users.xplornet.com/~mwarren/global.htm, Jun. 8, 2013.
[4] Amnesty Intl., Belarus: Further Information: Pavel Selyun seeks presidential clemency, Index: EUR 49/018/2013, Sep. 17, 2013.
[5] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/52, Apr. 18, 2013.
[6] European Union External Action, Execution in Belarus of Siarhei Vostrykau, https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/25677/Execution%20in%20Belarus%20of%20Siarhei%20Vostrykau, May 6, 2017.
[7] Amnesty International, Death sentences and executions in 2016, ACT 50/5740/2017, Apr. 11, 2017. See e.g. European Union External Action, Statement by the Spokesperson on the execution of Syarhey Iwanow and of the confirmation of the death sentence against Sergei Khmelevsky, http://eeas.europa.eu/statements-eeas/2016/160507_01_en.htm, May 7, 2016. Amnesty International, Belarus: Three sudden executions point to shameful purge of death row, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/11/belarus-three-executions-feared-in-as-many-weeks-amid-sudden-and-shameful-purge-of-death-row/, Nov. 30, 2016.
[8] DPW Executions and Death Sentences Monitor..
[9] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2014, ACT 50/001/2015, Mar. 31, 2015. AFP, Belarus executes convicted murderer: rights group, Global Post, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140418/belarus-executes-convicted-murderer-rights-group, Apr. 18, 2014. Radio Free Europe, Convicted Murderer Reportedly Executed in Belarus, http://www.rferl.org/content/convicted-murderer-reportedly-executed-in-belarus/25384294.html, May 14, 2014. Radio Free Europe, Rights group says convict executed in Belarus, http://www.rferl.org/content/belarus-execution-rights/26673807.html, Nov. 4, 2014.
[10] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2013, ACT 50/001/2014, Mar. 26, 2014.
[11] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, ACT 50/001/2012, Apr. 9, 2013.
[12] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, p. 7, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012.
[13] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p. 5, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, p. 18, ACT 50/001/2010, Mar. 2010.
[15] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2008, p. 8, ACT 50/003/2009, Mar. 24, 2009.
[16] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2007, p. 6, ACT 50/001/2008, Mar. 9, 2010.
[17] European Union External Action, Execution in Belarus of Siarhei Vostrykau, https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/25677/Execution%20in%20Belarus%20of%20Siarhei%20Vostrykau, May 6, 2017.

Crimes and Offenders Punishable By Death

Crimes Punishable by Death

Aggravated Murder. [1]
According to art. 59(1) of the Criminal Code of Belarus, which contemplates eventual abolition of the death penalty, only aggravated murder may be punished by death. [2] A number of provisions permit the death penalty for actions that can be correctly characterized as aggravated murder, but it is probably unjustified to characterize some of them as aimed at aggravated murder. Instead, they seem aimed at Belarus' interest in deterring persons in its government, military and citizenry from initiating violent action that would provide casus belli for another state or group of states to wage war against Belarus. [3] Recidivism of grave offenses justifies a finding under Article 43 that the offender is particularly dangerous, which could support a death sentence and help overcome the requirement of Article 62 that the most lenient, effective sentence be pronounced. [4]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.
- A murder of a representative of a foreign state or international organization with the aim of provoking war. [5]
- International terrorism. Presumably this will be limited to international terrorism that results in death, although this section standing alone would permit the death penalty for international terrorism not resulting in death. [6]
- (Domestic) terrorism or political violence resulting in death. [7]
- Sabotage resulting in death. [8]
- Use of weapons of mass destruction. [9]

Treason.
This includes treason [10] and treason coupled with murder. [11]

War crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Violations of the laws or customs of war intentionally causing death is punishable by death. [12] Initiating or waging aggressive war is also punishable by death. This law appears to address wars against other nations rather than wars against Belarus. [13]

Deportation, illegal detention, enslavement, mass or systematic extrajudicial executions, abductions, followed by their disappearance, torture and atrocities committed in relation to race, nationality, ethnicity, political beliefs or religious faith of the civilian population are all punishable by death. [14]

Genocide is punishable by death. [15]

Comments.
According to Article 1(2) of the Criminal Code of Belarus, the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus is the unified criminal code of Belarus and is the only criminal law in effect in the territory of Belarus. [16]

Does the country have a mandatory death penalty?

No. [17]

For Which Offenses, If Any, Is a Mandatory Death Sentence Imposed?

There is no mandatory death penalty. [18]

Crimes For Which Individuals Have Been Executed Since January 2008:

Aggravated Murder.
The Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus provides that the death penalty applies only to aggravated murder, and reports of recent years’ executions indicate that offenders have been executed for crimes such as murder sprees, assault and murder committed during an armed robbery, or rape and murder of a minor. [19]

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.
In 2011, two men were convicted and sentenced to death for the bomb attack carried out at a Minsk subway which killed 15 people and injured hundreds. Both were executed in March 2012. [20]

Comments.
Since 1981, the death penalty has only been used for murder committed with aggravating circumstances, except for the Minsk bomb case discussed above. [21]

Categories of Offenders Excluded From the Death Penalty:

Individuals Below Age 18 At Time of Crime.
Persons who committed crimes under the age of eighteen may not be executed in Belarus. [22]

Pregnant Women.
No woman may be executed in Belarus. [23]

Women With Small Children.
No woman may be executed in Belarus. [24]

Women.
No woman may be executed in Belarus. [25]

Mentally Ill.
Persons who become mentally ill after sentencing are excluded from application of the death penalty (and any other punishment) where the mental illness deprives them of the ability to understand the actual nature and significance of their actions or control them. If they recover, punishment is pursued, without prejudice to the statute of limitations. [26]

Elderly.
Persons 65 years or older at sentencing are excluded from the application of the death penalty. [27]

References

[1] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 59(1), 139(2)(1-16), 362, 2009.
[2] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 59(1), 2009.
[3] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 122(2), 124(2), 126, 2009.
[4] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 43, 62, 2009.
[5] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 124(2), 2009.
[6] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 59(1), 126, 2009.
[7] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 59(1), 289, 359, 2009.
[8] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 59(1), 360(2), 2009.
[9] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 134, 2009.
[10] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 357(2), 2009.
[11] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 356(2), 257(3), 2009.
[12] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 135(1,3), 2009.
[13] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 122(2), 2009.
[14] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 59(1), 128, 181, 2009.
[15] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 59(1), 127, 2009.
[16] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 1(2), 2009.
[17] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, 2009.
[18] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, 2009.
[19] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 59(1), 2009; Amnesty Intl., Republic of Belarus: Report 2009, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/belarus/report-2009, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012; Amnesty Intl., Republic of Belarus: Report 2011, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/belarus/report-2011#section-13-3, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012; Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, p. 30, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012.
[20] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, p. 30, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012; Michael Schwirtz, Belarussian Is Executed Over Attack on Subway, p. A14, The New York Times, Mar. 18, 2012; Michael Schwirtz, Belarus Censured for Executing 2 in Subway Bombing, p. A3, The New York Times, Mar. 19, 2012; Telegraf.by, Konovalov Shot Down as Well, http://telegraf.by/en/2012/03/konovalova-toje-rasstrelyali, Mar. 17, 2012.
[21] BelTA, Samoseiko: Belarus rejects pressure concerning death penalty, news.belta.by/en/news/society?id=718981, Jun. 21, 2013.
[22] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 59.2(1), 2009.
[23] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 59.2(2), 93, 2009.
[24] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 59.2(2), 93, 2009.
[25] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 59.2(2), 93, 2009.
[26] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 92, 2009.
[27] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 59.2(3), 2009.

International Commitments

ICCPR

Party?

Yes. [1]

Date of Accession

November 12, 1973. [2]

Signed?

Yes. [3]

Date of Signature

March 19, 1968. [4]

First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Recognizing Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee

Party?

Yes. [5]

Date of Accession

September 30, 1992. [6]

Signed?

No. [7]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Toward the Abolition of the Death Penalty

Party?

No. [8]

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Signed?

No. [9]

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

American Convention on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable. [10]

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable. [11]

Date of Signature

Death Penalty Protocol to the ACHR

Party?

Not Applicable. [12]

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable. [13]

Date of Signature

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Women in Africa

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

Arab Charter on Human Rights

Party?

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Signed?

Not Applicable.

Date of Signature

2016 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [14]

Vote

Abstained. [15]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [16]

2014 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [17]

Vote

Abstained. [18]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [19]

2012 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [20]

Vote

Abstained. [21]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [22]

2010 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [23]

Vote

Abstained. [24]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [25]

2008 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [26]

Vote

Abstained. [27]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [28]

2007 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

Cosponsor

No. [29]

Vote

Abstained. [30]

Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

No. [31]

References

[1] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012.
[2] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012.
[3] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012.
[4] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-4&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012.
[5] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012.
[6] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012.
[7] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-5&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012.
[8] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012.
[9] Status, Declarations, and Reservations, Second Optional Prot. to the ICCPR, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty, 1642 U.N.T.S. 414, Dec. 15, 1989, http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-12&chapter=4&lang=en, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012.
[10] Not an American state.
[11] Not an American state.
[12] Not an American state.
[13] Not an American state.
[14] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54-71 U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016.
[15] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 54-71 U.N. Doc. A/71/484/Add.2, Dec. 6, 2016.
[16] U.N.G.A., 71st Session, Note Verbale dated 7 September 2017, U.N. Doc. A/71/1047, Sep. 13, 2017.
[17] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 141, 144, U.N. Doc. A/69/488/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2014.
[18] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, 73rd Plenary Meeting, pp. 17-18, U.N. Doc. A/69/PV.73, Dec. 18, 2014.
[19] U.N.G.A., 69th Session, Note Verbale dated 28 July 2015, U.N. Doc. A/69/993, Jul. 29, 2015.
[20] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, paras. 95-96, U.N. Doc. A/67/457/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2012.
[21] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, 60th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/67/PV.60, Dec. 20, 2012.
[22] U.N.G.A., 67th Session, Note Verbale dated 16 April 2013, U.N. Doc. A/67/841, Apr. 23, 2013.
[23] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, includng alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, p. 5, U.N. Doc. A/65/456/Add.2, Dec. 8, 2010.
[24] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, 71st Plenary Meeting, pp. 18-19, U.N. Doc. A/65/PV.71, Dec. 21, 2010.
[25] U.N.G.A., 65th Session, Note Verbale dated 11 March 2011, U.N. Doc. A/65/779, Mar. 11, 2011.
[26] U.N.G.A., 63rd session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/63/430/Add.2, Dec. 4, 2008.
[27] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, 70th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/63/PV.70, Dec. 18, 2008.
[28] U.N.G.A., 63rd Session, Note Verbale dated 10 February 2009, U.N. Doc. A/63/716, Feb. 12, 2009.
[29] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, U.N. Doc. A/62/439/Add.2, Dec. 5, 2007.
[30] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, 76th Plenary Meeting, pp. 16-17, U.N. Doc. A/62/PV.76, Dec. 18, 2007.
[31] U.N.G.A., 62nd Session, Note Verbale dated 11 January 2008, U.N. Doc. A/62/658, Feb. 2, 2008.

Death Penalty In Law

Does the country’s constitution make reference to capital punishment?

Yes. Specifically, the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus limits the death penalty as an exceptional measure for especially grave crimes, and explicitly contemplates that the death penalty will eventually be abolished. [1]

Does the country’s constitution make reference to international law?

Yes. The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus guarantees the supremacy of universally acknowledged principles of international law, and states that Belarus may not enter into international treaties that violate its constitution. This provision probably indicates that international law can influence human rights protections but cannot reduce them below the threshold acceptable in Belarus' constitution. [2] The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus provides that citizens may be extradited by an international treaty. [3] The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus guarantees equal rights and obligations to foreigners except as defined by international law. [4]

Have there been any significant changes in the application of the death penalty over the last several years?

The scope of death-eligible crimes has been reduced in recent years. The Criminal Code has restricted "grave offenses" punishable by death to aggravated murder. [5] In 1999, the number of death-eligible crimes was reduced to 14, including 2 that can only be committed during war time. [6] Since 1981, the death penalty has only been applied to cases of murder with aggravating circumstances and to two offenders convicted of a bombing on the Minsk metro station. [7]

The number of death sentences has also decreased in recent years. Since 1998 the number of death sentences has dropped considerably. While 47 death sentences were handed down in 1998, only 2 were handed down in 2008, 2 in 2010, 0 in 2012 and so far 3 in 2013. [8]

In his April 2013 report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus noted developments that could be “seen as signs of openness towards possible reform.” The Rapporteur noted that on December 20, 2012, a parliamentary working group had been re-established to consider the issue of the death penalty, and that the Chairman of the Constitutional Court had stated several times in early 2013 that the question of a moratorium remained open. [9]

However, some Belarussian politicians have been outspoken about resisting international pressure to abolish the death penalty. In June 2013, Nikolai Samoseiko, Chairman of the Permanent Commission for International Affairs of the House of Representatives of Belarus, stated that Belarus would “not tolerate any pressure from outside…in the form of sanctions and ultimatums” on the question of abolition. [10]

Is there currently an official moratorium on executions within the country?

No. [11]

Have there been any significant published cases concerning the death penalty in national courts?

Appeals to Belarus' Supreme Court have been unsuccessful in challenging the death penalty. The recent challenge in the case of Vasily (Vasil) Yusepchuk (Yuzepchuk) involved allegations that authorities tortured a confession out of an intellectually disabled suspect. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal. [12]

On 11 March 2004, the Constitutional Court, following a request by the House of Representatives of the National Assembly to assess the compatibility of the Constitution of Belarus and the international treaties ratified by Belarus with the Criminal Code provisions providing for the death penalty, found that some provisions of the Code were inconsistent with the Constitution. Namely, articles 48(1)(11) and 59 of the Criminal Code were found to be inconsistent with the Constitution due to their lack of reference to the temporary character of the death penalty. The court also found that article 24(3) of the Constitution of Belarus, which allows the death penalty to be applied only until its abolition, makes both complete abolition and a moratorium on executions equally permissible. [13]

Where can one locate or access judicial decisions regarding the death penalty?

In Belarus, the death penalty is classified as state secret. [14] Belarus appears to be in the process of creating a legal databank that will contain the decisions of its courts. The decisions of the Constitutional Court of Belarus are available at: http://www.kc.gov.by/main.aspx?guid=1061. However, the Supreme Court of Belarus is the ultimate court of appeal for actual controversies brought by individuals, while the Constitutional Court reviews legislation and similar actions at the government's request. A researcher should likely review decisions of the Supreme Court to determine precedent on the death penalty in Belarus, and a search of Constitutional Court decisions is unlikely to be sufficient. [15]

What is the clemency process?

According to the Criminal Code, the death penalty may, by means of a pardon, be commuted to life imprisonment. [16] The President has the power to grant pardons to convicted persons. [17] Appeals are initially considered by a Clemency Commission. All death sentences are automatically considered, whether or not the sentenced person requests it. The current President, Aleksandr Lukashenko, has stated that he personally reviews all death penalty cases before the sentences are carried out. [18]

Are jury trials provided for defendants charged with capital offenses?

There is no jury for persons charged with capital murder. In capital cases judges adjudicate with the assistance of two civilian advisors called People's Assessors. A Constitutional Court ruling that preserves the institution of People's Assessors over that of a jury defines assessors as judges and provides for significant executive branch control of eligibility for the position of People's Assessor. Although the use of common citizens as People's Assessors in capital cases does seem similar to use of a jury, Belarus does not preserve the usual distinction between judge and jury and seems to reserve control of jury selection to its executive rather than to the adversarial process. [19]

Brief Description of Appellate Process

Capital defendants appeal to the Supreme Court, and must file an application for clemency within 10 days of the Supreme Court's rejection of an appeal. [20] However, in at least two terrorism cases, the defendants were sentenced to death by the Supreme Court acting as the court of first and only instance, leaving no recourse for an appeal to a higher court. [21] The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus noted in his April 2013 report that the procedure for appeals was “inadequate”. [22]

References

[1] Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, art. 24, 1994.
[2] Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, art. 8, 1994.
[3] Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, art. 10, 1994.
[4] Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, art. 11, 1994.
[5] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 59(1), 2009.
[6] BelTA, Samoseiko: Belarus rejects pressure concerning death penalty, news.belta.by/en/news/society?id=718981, Jun. 21, 2013.
[7] BelTA, Samoseiko: Belarus rejects pressure concerning death penalty, news.belta.by/en/news/society?id=718981, Jun. 21, 2013.
[8] BelTA, Samoseiko: Belarus rejects pressure concerning death penalty, news.belta.by/en/news/society?id=718981, Jun. 21, 2013.
[9] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/52, Apr. 18, 2013.
[10] BelTA, Samoseiko: Belarus rejects pressure concerning death penalty, news.belta.by/en/news/society?id=718981, Jun. 21, 2013.
[11] Amnesty Intl., Abolitionist and Retentionist Countries, http://www.amnesty.org/en/death-penalty/abolitionist-and-retentionist-countries, last accessed Mar.25, 2012; Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2010, p. 5, ACT 50/001/2011, Mar. 28, 2011; Michael Schwirtz, Belarussian Is Executed Over Attack on Subway, p. A14, The New York Times, Mar. 18, 2012.
[12] Amnesty Intl., Republic of Belarus: Report 2009, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/belarus/report-2009, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012; Amnesty Intl., Republic of Belarus: Report 2008, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/belarus/report-2008, last accessed Mar. 25, 2012; Amnesty Intl., Amnesty International to Belarusian President: Thou Shall Not Kill, http://humanrightshouse.org/Articles/12095.html, Oct. 10, 2009; Amnesty Intl., Imminent Execution in Belarus Must be Stopped, http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,AMNESTY,,BLR,4562d8b62,4acddf27c,0.html, Oct. 7, 2009; Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty NGO, They wanted me to confess more cases, but I said they should stop earning points on me, Viasna, http://www.radicalparty.org/en/content/they-wanted-me-confess-more-cases-i-said-they-should-stop-earning-points-me, Oct. 12, 2009 (statements of Vasil Yuzepchuk concerning his interrogation); The Human Rights Center, Death Penalty: News in Vasil Yuzepchuk's Case, http://spring96.org/en/news/30338, Nov. 16, 2009; AP, Gypsy Laborer Faces Execution in Belarus, ICARE, http://www.icare.to/news.php?en/2009-10, Oct. 13, 2009; David Sophrin, Belarusian Laborer Alleges He was Tortured into Murder Confession, Impunity Watch, Europe, http://impunitywatch.com/index.php?s=Belarusian+Laborer+, Oct. 14, 2009; Amnesty International Condemns Belarusian Firing Squad, RIA Novosti, http://en.rian.ru/world/20100322/158281311.html, Mar. 22, 2010.
[13] Decision No. 3-171/2004 of the Constitutional Court on the Compliance of the provisions of the Criminal Code on the Abolition of Death Penalty to the Constitution and the International Treaties ratified by the Republic of Belarus, of Mar. 11, 2004, available at http://www.kc.gov.by/en/main.aspx?guid=4363, last accessed Mar. 21, 2012 (English translation by the Court); Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, art. 24, 1994.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, p. 7, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012.
[15] The National Legal Internet Portal of the Republic of Belarus, http://law.by/work/EnglPortal.nsf%5CRazdely/07?OpenDocument#Databank%20%22Judicial%20Practice%22, last accessed Mar. 15, 2010; Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, arts. 112-116, 1994.
[16] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 59(3), 2009.
[17] Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, art. 84(19), 1994.
[18] Presidential Decree No. 250 “On the introduction of the regulation of provisions for pardoning procedure in the Republic of Belarus”, Dec. 3, 1994 (cited in the O.S.C.E.’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, The Death Penalty in the OSCE Area: Background Paper 2011, p. 8, n. 27, http://www.osce.org/odihr/82896, 2011); Michael Schwirtz, Belarussian Is Executed Over Attack on Subway, p. A14, The New York Times, Mar. 18, 2012.
[19] US State Dept., Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, 2009 Human Rights Report: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; Decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus of 17.04.2001 No. D-114/2001, On procedure of formation of panel of People's assessors, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus, No. D-114/2001, 2001; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including Questions of: Independence of the Judiciary, Administration of Justice, Impunity, U.N. Doc E/CN.4/2001/65/Add.1, Feb. 8, 2001.
[20] Amnesty Intl., Belarus Man Loses Death Sentence Appeal, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/belarus-man-loses-death-sentence-appeal-20091029, Oct. 29, 2009.
[21] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, ACT 50/001/2012, Apr. 9, 2013.
[22] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/52, Apr. 18, 2013.

Death Penalty In Practice

Where Are Death-Sentenced Prisoners incarcerated?

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, all capital convicts are kept in the basement of the Minsk pre-trial detention facility on Volodarskogo Street. [1]

Description of Prison Conditions

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, condemned prisoners are kept in a ward that was designed for pre-trial detention. Their cells are roughly two by three meters, are designed to house multiple inmates, and contain open holes as toilets. Prisoners are confined to their cells except for a weekly walk. The pre-trial ward is in the basement of the Minsk detention center and does not receive any sunlight. Prisoners' cells are artificially illuminated for 24 hours a day. Prisoners are not permitted to send or receive correspondence or parcels, and are not permitted to view television. The U.N. Committee Against Torture has expressed concern over the poor conditions of persons sentenced to death, the lack of fundamental legal safeguards and the secrecy and arbitrariness surrounding the executions. Neither the prisoners nor their families or lawyers are informed in advance of the forthcoming execution. After a prisoner has exhausted the appeals process, which typically takes 6 to 18 months, he has 10 days to apply for clemency. Upon the president's rejection of a prisoner's application for clemency, the prisoner is taken into a room where the Director of the prison and another Interior employee inform the prisoner his application has been rejected. The prisoner is then taken to another room, forced to his knees, and shot in the back of the head. Families are notified of the execution after it has been carried out. The bodies of the executed are not returned to their families for burial; they are buried in unmarked graves that are kept secret. [2]

Are there any known foreign nationals currently under sentence of death?

Standard compilations do not indicate there are any foreign nationals under sentence of death in Belarus. [3]

What are the nationalities of the known foreign nationals on death row?

Standard compilations do not indicate there are any foreign nationals under sentence of death in Belarus. [4]

Are there any known women currently under sentence of death?

Women cannot be sentenced to death in Belarus. [5]

Are there any reports of individuals currently under sentence of death who may have been under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed?

Persons under the age of 18 when a crime is committed cannot be sentenced to death in Belarus. [6]

Comments regarding the racial/ethnic composition on death row

Our research indicates that despite constitutional protections, an ethnic Russian minority may control an essentially authoritarian state where an increasingly impoverished ethnic Belarusian majority does not enjoy important civil and political rights. There is reason to believe this imbalance affects death penalty outcomes. In some cases aggravated murders of Belarusians by Belarusians have been treated with leniency, while other murders that cross class and potentially ethnic boundaries have been punished with the death penalty even in the presence of factors that suggest the diminished responsibility of the offender. A number of death-eligible offenses in Belarus' criminal code -especially crimes such as international and domestic terrorism and acts likely to trigger domestic conflict or serve as a casus belli for Russian forces- may involve crimes most likely to be committed against ethnic Russians. [7]

Are there lawyers available for indigent defendants facing capital trials?

By law, indigent defendants have access to court-appointed counsel. In practice, that right is sometimes not respected. Additionally, UN fact-finding missions indicate that court-appointed attorneys often refuse to be present at interrogations if their indigent clients are not able to pay for in-jail visits. Defendants seeking proceedings in Belarusian rather than in Russian are sometimes denied access to lawyers and interpreters. Belarusian judges and prosecutors are, generally, not fluent in Belarusian. [8]

Are there lawyers available for indigent prisoners on appeal?

Yes, but the right to counsel is sometimes not respected, particularly when a defendant requests proceedings in Belarusian instead of in Russian. Additionally, reviewing courts usually determine the result of appeals without a hearing, and reviewing courts uphold lower court verdicts in the vast majority of cases. [9]

Comments on Quality of Legal Representation

Legal representation may be nonexistent for defendants who request proceedings in Belarusian instead of in Russian. Legal representation may be ineffective during the appeals process because reviewing courts generally do not hold hearings and instead simply conduct their own review of court documents and protocol. Additionally, detainees indicate that court-appointed attorneys for indigent defendants demand to be paid to be present during interrogations. Attorneys have difficulty gaining pre-trial access to evidence and expertise, and detainees indicate that state-appointed counsel are ineffective. [10] As a matter of practice, investigators interview detainees outside the presence of defense lawyers. Defense attorneys have limited or nonexistent access to prosecutorial evidence and expertise and thus have difficulty preparing and executing a defense. Courts often permit the state to present as evidence the information coerced during illegal interrogations. [11] Investigators have almost complete discretion to determine pre-trial conditions such as detention and the scope of the accused's communications with the outside world. Courts exercise only procedural review over whether an investigator's decisions are proper. The executive exercises significant control over the bar association, and attorneys who have opposed executive policies on human rights grounds have been stripped of their licenses to practice law. [12]

Other Comments on Criminal Justice System

Reports continue to be received of the use of torture and other ill-treatment by police and investigators in order to extort confessions that are then used as evidence in trial proceedings. In such cases, there is evidence of a failure by officials to conduct prompt, impartial and full investigations into allegations of torture and ill-treatment and to prosecute alleged perpetrators. This was of particular concern to the Human Rights Committee in the Kavalyou (Kovalev) death penalty case. [13] Uladzslau Kavalyou, who was executed in March 2012 after being convicted of a bomb attack, tried to retract his confession, which he claimed had been obtained under threats of being shot. His mother, Lubou Kavalyoua, said that both he and his co-defendant had been beaten during interrogation. [14]

Pre-trial detention is overcrowded, and suspects and defendants are confined in facilities that lack conditions for basic hygiene and where tuberculosis is prevalent. Diet and medical care are poor. Communication with the outside world is highly restricted or nonexistent, and suspects are pressured to self-incriminate. [15]

In practice, defendants are required to prove their innocence, and defendants are sometimes not permitted or given the opportunity to attend proceedings, confront witnesses, or present their own evidence. Capital adjudication is sometimes arbitrary, with some capital defendants receiving lenient or negligible sentences for brutal, premeditated and not legally justified murders, with others receiving death sentences despite compelling evidence of coerced confessions and inferior capacity.

Prosecutors, investigators and the judiciary are highly controlled by the executive, and UN fact-finding missions have concluded that Belarus is an authoritarian state with power highly centralized in an executive that does not comply with the Constitution or laws of Belarus. Attempts by the Constitutional Court to limit executive control and enforce constitutional limitations have been met by dismissal of the Court by the president and appointment of a new Court. The executive may dismiss most judges, and the executive has limited access to legal licenses, excluding from criminal practice attorneys who oppose executive policy. [16]

There were serious doubts about the fairness of the trial provided to the two men sentenced to death in November 2011 (namely, suspicions that the confessions were coerced and the lack of a possibility of appeal, since they were sentenced to death by the Supreme Court, acting as court of first instance). This led to appeals by European institutions and human rights organizations, urging Belarus not to carry out the executions and to grant the prisoners a new, fair trial (the appeals were ignored and the men were eventually executed in March 2012). [17]

Belarus has ignored appeals by the U.N. Human Rights Council to release political prisoners and “to put an immediate end to arbitrary detention of human rights defenders.” Several human rights activists are currently imprisoned, including Ales Bialiatski, a leading human rights defender who has been imprisoned since August 2011 and convicted of questionable tax evasion offenses. [18]

References

[1] Intl. Federation for Human Rights, Conditions of Detention in the Republic of Belarus, No. 500/2, Sep. 2, 2008.
[2] Intl. Federation for Human Rights, Conditions of Detention in the Republic of Belarus, No. 500/2, Sep. 2, 2008; U.N. Committee Against Torture, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention, Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture: Belarus, para. 27, CAT/C/BLR/CO/4, Dec. 7, 2011; Amnesty Intl., Belarus Man Loses Death Sentence Appeal, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/belarus-man-loses-death-sentence-appeal-20091029, Oct. 29, 2009; Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, pp. 7, 30, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012.
[3] Mark Warren, Foreigners Under Sentence of Death Worldwide, http://users.xplornet.com/~mwarren/world.html, Jan. 19, 2013.
[4] Mark Warren, Foreigners Under Sentence of Death Worldwide, http://users.xplornet.com/~mwarren/world.html, Jan. 19, 2013.
[5] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 59(1), 2009.
[6] Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, art. 59(1), 2009.
[7] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including the Questions of Torture and Detention, paras. 39-57, E/CN.4/2005/6/Add.3, Nov. 25, 2004; Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, 2009; Decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus of 17.04.2001 No. D-114/2001, On procedure of formation of panel of People's assessors, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus, No. D-114/2001, 2001; Amnesty Intl., Belarus Man Loses Death Sentence Appeal, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/belarus-man-loses-death-sentence-appeal-20091029, Oct. 29, 2009; Radio Free Europe, Four Belarusians get Lenient Sentences in "Vigilante" Case, http://www.rferl.org/content/G119Four_Belarusians_Get_Lenient_Sentences_In_Vigilante_Case/1608670.html, Apr. 14, 2009; AP, Gypsy Laborer Faces Execution in Belarus, ICARE, http://www.icare.to/news.php?en/2009-10, Oct. 13, 2009; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including Questions of: Independence of the Judiciary, Administration of Justice, Impunity, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2001/65/Add.1, Feb. 8, 2001; U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations of the Committee Against Torture: Belarus, para. 45, U.N. Doc. A/56/44, Nov. 20, 2000 (discussing torture, prison conditions and the lack of an independent judiciary and procuracy).
[8] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including the Questions of Torture and Detention, paras. 39-57, E/CN.4/2005/6/Add.3, Nov. 25, 2004.
[9] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm, Mar. 11, 2010.
[10] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including the Questions of Torture and Detention, paras. 39-57, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2005/6/Add.3, Nov. 25, 2004; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including Questions of: Independence of the Judiciary, Administration of Justice, Impunity, para. 66, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2001/65/Add.1, Feb. 8, 2001.
[11] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; Amnesty Intl., Belarus Man Loses Death Sentence Appeal, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/belarus-man-loses-death-sentence-appeal-20091029, Oct. 29, 2009; Radio Free Europe, Four Belarusians get Lenient Sentences in "Vigilante" Case, http://www.rferl.org/content/G119Four_Belarusians_Get_Lenient_Sentences_In_Vigilante_Case/1608670.html, Apr. 14, 2009; AP, Gypsy Laborer Faces Execution in Belarus, ICARE, http://www.icare.to/news.php?en/2009-10, Oct. 13, 2009; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including the Questions of Torture and Detention, paras. 39-57, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2005/6/Add.3, Nov. 25, 2004; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including Questions of: Independence of the Judiciary, Administration of Justice, Impunity, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2001/65/Add.1, Feb. 8, 2001; U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations of the Committee Against Torture: Belarus, para. 45, U.N. Doc. A/56/44, Nov. 20, 2000 (discussing torture, prison conditions and the lack of an independent judiciary and procuracy); U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 Entitled "Human Rights Council," Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus, para. 10, A/HRC/4/16, Jan. 15, 2007 (discussing independence of the judiciary).
[12] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including the Questions of Torture and Detention, paras. 39-57, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2005/6/Add.3, Nov. 25, 2004; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including Questions of: Independence of the Judiciary, Administration of Justice, Impunity, para. 66, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2001/65/Add.1, Feb. 8, 2001.
[13] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/52, Apr. 18, 2013.
[14] Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2012, ACT 50/001/2012, Apr. 9, 2013.
[15] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; Amnesty Intl., Belarus Man Loses Death Sentence Appeal, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/belarus-man-loses-death-sentence-appeal-20091029, Oct. 29, 2009; Radio Free Europe, Four Belarusians get Lenient Sentences in "Vigilante" Case, http://www.rferl.org/content/G119Four_Belarusians_Get_Lenient_Sentences_In_Vigilante_Case/1608670.html, Apr. 14, 2009; AP, Gypsy Laborer Faces Execution in Belarus, ICARE, http://www.icare.to/news.php?en/2009-10, Oct. 13, 2009; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including the Questions of Torture and Detention, paras. 39-57, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2005/6/Add.3, Nov. 25, 2004; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including Questions of: Independence of the Judiciary, Administration of Justice, Impunity, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2001/65/Add.1, Feb. 8, 2001; U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations of the Committee Against Torture: Belarus, para. 45, U.N. Doc. A/56/44, Nov. 20, 2000 (discussing torture, prison conditions and the lack of an independent judiciary and procuracy); U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 Entitled "Human Rights Council," Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus, para. 10, A/HRC/4/16, Jan. 15, 2007 (discussing independence of the judiciary).
[16] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; Amnesty Intl., Belarus Man Loses Death Sentence Appeal, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/belarus-man-loses-death-sentence-appeal-20091029, Oct. 29, 2009; Radio Free Europe, Four Belarusians get Lenient Sentences in "Vigilante" Case, http://www.rferl.org/content/G119Four_Belarusians_Get_Lenient_Sentences_In_Vigilante_Case/1608670.html, Apr. 14, 2009; AP, Gypsy Laborer Faces Execution in Belarus, ICARE, http://www.icare.to/news.php?en/2009-10, Oct. 13, 2009; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including the Questions of Torture and Detention, paras. 39-57, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2005/6/Add.3, Nov. 25, 2004; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including Questions of: Independence of the Judiciary, Administration of Justice, Impunity, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2001/65/Add.1, Feb. 8, 2001; U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations of the Committee Against Torture: Belarus, para. 45, U.N. Doc. A/56/44, Nov. 20, 2000 (discussing torture, prison conditions and the lack of an independent judiciary and procuracy); U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 Entitled "Human Rights Council," Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus, para. 10, A/HRC/4/16, Jan. 15, 2007 (discussing independence of the judiciary).
[17] Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1857 (2012), The situation in Belarus, Jan. 25, 2012; European Parliament, Death penalty in Belarus, in particular the cases of Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavalyou, P7_TA(2012)0063, Feb. 16, 2012; European Union, Statement by the Spokesperson of High Representative Catherine Ashton on the execution of Uladzislaw Kavalyow in Belarus, A 129/12, Mar. 17, 2012; OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. President Efthymiou calls for halting of death penalty in Belarus, http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=29842c1c8782f1a5cc6f1ee42&id=3ae9bdde06&e=2d823a2dd7, Mar. 16, 2012; Amnesty Intl., Death Sentences and Executions in 2011, p. 30, ACT 50/001/2012, Mar. 27, 2012; Michael Schwirtz, Belarussian Is Executed Over Attack on Subway, p. A14, The New York Times, Mar. 18, 2012; Michael Schwirtz, Belarus Censured for Executing 2 in Subway Bombing, p. A3, The New York Times, Mar. 19, 2012; Telegraf.by, Konovalov Shot Down as Well, http://telegraf.by/en/2012/03/konovalova-toje-rasstrelyali, Mar. 17, 2012.
[18] Human Rights Watch, Belarus : One Year On, Still Waiting For Justice, www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/02/belarus-one-year-still-waiting-justice, Aug. 2, 2012. Amnesty Intl., Belarus: Still Behind Bars: The Plight of Long-Term Prisoners In Belarus, www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR49/013/2012/en/0292c5a2-b1ca-460d-adb3-534b89417eee/eur490132012en.html, Aug. 2, 2012.

Decisions of International Human Rights Bodies

Decisions of Human Rights Committee

In two contentious cases, the UN Human Rights Committee determined that the secrecy surrounding executions in Belarus amounts to a violation of Belarus' international treaty obligations under Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects against torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. The HRC further determined that the failure to notify the condemned and his family of the time and place of his execution, the failure to render the body of the condemned to the family, and the failure to disclose the condemned's place of burial all constitute violations of Article 7 of the ICCPR. Belarus has not changed its practices in response to the HRC's decisions. [1]

In October 2012, the Human Rights Committee concluded that in the case of Vladislav Kovalev, there had been violations of the right to life, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial and access to an effective judicial review, as well as inhuman treatment with regard to his family due to the secrecy surrounding the execution and the refusal to release his body. [2] In his April 2013 report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus noted with concern that Belarus “systematically dismisses the Committee’s views.” [3]

It should be mentioned that Belarus has repeatedly proceeded with executions where the prisoner’s case was being considered by the Human Rights Committee, thus disregarding the Committee’s request that Belarus not carry out the executions while the case was pending (this happened in 2012, 2011 and 2010). In all five of these cases there were allegations that the right to a fair trial had been violated, and three of the individuals claimed that they had confessed under duress. [4]

Decisions of Other Human Rights Bodies

Belarus is the only country in Europe that is not a member of the Council of Europe, and thus not a State Party to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Therefore, it is not subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. Both the Council of Europe [5] and the European Union [6] have repeatedly urged Belarus to abolish the death penalty and to ensure respect for the right to a fair trial and other fundamental rights. In 2009, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted to restore Special Guest Status to the Belarusian Parliament, on the condition that Belarus declare a moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty. [7]

In a June 2013 statement, the U.N. Human Rights Council expressed “deep concern at continuing violations of human rights in Belarus, which are of a structural and endemic nature, and also at the systemic and systematic restrictions on human rights, especially in the case of … guarantees of due process and fair trial, and expresses particular concern at the use of torture and ill-treatment in custody, the lack of response by the Government to cases of enforced disappearance of political opponents, … the impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses, the harassment of civil society organizations, human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents, [and] pressure on defence lawyers.” [8]

In his April 2013 report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus listed developments that could be “seen as signs of openness towards possible reform.” On December 20, 2012, a parliamentary working group had been re-established to consider the issue of the death penalty, and the Chairman of the Constitutional Court had stated several times in early 2013 that the question of a moratorium remained open. However, the report also characterized appeals procedures in capital cases as “inadequate.” After noting with concern that Belarus systematically ignores the conclusions of the Human Rights Committee, which has found violations of international law in Belarus’s conduct of capital cases, the Special Rapporteur concluded that “the way the death penalty is carried out in Belarus amounts to inhuman treatment.” [9] The Rapporteur also deplored that “the rule of law in Belarus is critically undermined by non-transparent court proceedings that can end up in executions without any meaningful legal guarantee.” [10]

The U.N. Committee Against Torture, in its last consideration of the report submitted by Belarus, recommended that it “should take all necessary measures to improve the conditions of detention of persons on death row, and to ensure they are afforded all the protections provided by the Convention. Furthermore, it should remedy the secrecy and arbitrariness surrounding executions so that family members do not have added uncertainty and suffering. The Committee also recommends the State party to consider ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.” [11]

The recommendations of the Human Rights Council’s 2010 Universal Periodic Review of human rights in Belarus included: declaring a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty; making public information regarding the death penalty’s application; commuting all death sentences to prison sentences; and ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. [12] Belarus rejected these recommendations, arguing that public opinion was favorable to retention. However, it showed willingness to continue cooperation with the international community on this matter and to consider abolition, by means of a parliamentary working group and of awareness-raising campaigns. [13] It accepted the recommendation that, “as long as the death penalty is not abolished and continues to be carried out, [it would] respect minimum standards in this regard, and in particular ensure that the death penalty is applied only for the most serious criminal offences.” [14]

References

[1] U.N. ICCPR, Human Rights Committee, Schedko v. Belarus, Communication No. 886/1999, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/77/D/886/1999, Apr. 28, 2003. U.N. ICCPR, Human Rights Committee, Staselovich v. Belarus, Communication No. 887/1999, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/77/D/887/1999, Apr. 28, 2003. Amnesty Intl., Belarus Man Loses Death Sentence Appeal, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/belarus-man-loses-death-sentence-appeal-20091029, Oct. 29, 2009. ICCPR, art. 7, U.N. Doc. 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Dec. 16, 1966.
[2] U.N. ICCPR, Human Rights Committee, Kovaleva v. Belarus, Communication No. 2120/2011, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/106/D/2120/2011, Nov. 27, 2012.
[3] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, para. 44, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/52, Apr. 18, 2013.
[4] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, para. 44, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/52, Apr. 18, 2013. U.N. News Centre, UN human rights panel deplores Belarus execution, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41581&Cr=Belarus&Cr1=#, Mar. 19, 2012.
[5] Among others, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1727 (2010), Situation in Belarus: recent developments, Apr. 29, 2010 (regretting that developments in Belarus show lack of progress towards Council of Europe standards and lack of political will to embrace Council of Europe values); Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1807 (2011), The death penalty in Council of Europe member and observer states: a violation of human rights, Apr. 14, 2011; Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1857 (2012), The situation in Belarus, Jan. 25, 2012.
[6] Among others, European Parliament, Resolution on Belarus, P7_TA(2009)0117, Dec. 17, 2009 (calling on the Government of Belarus immediately to establish a moratorium on all death sentences and executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty and to commute without delay the sentences of all prisoners currently on death row to terms of imprisonment); European Parliament, Death penalty in Belarus, in particular the cases of Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavalyou, P7_TA(2012)0063, Feb. 16, 2012.
[7] Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1671 (2009), Situation in Belarus, Jun. 23, 2009.
[8] U.N.G.A. Human Rights Council, Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, Situation of Human Rights in Belarus, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/L.18, Jun. 7, 2013.
[9] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/23/52, Apr. 18, 2013.
[10] UNOG, United Nations Rights Expert Deplores Human Rights Violations in Belarus, Urges Co-operation, http://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/B7CF586F67FE14D3C1257B8A00378D31?OpenDocument, Jun. 14, 2013.
[11] U.N. Committee Against Torture, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention, Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture: Belarus, para. 27, CAT/C/BLR/CO/4, Dec. 7, 2011.
[12] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Belarus, paras. 98.16 - 98.17, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/15/16, Jun. 21, 2010.
[13] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Belarus - Addendum, paras. 44-48, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/15/16/Add.1, Sep. 15, 2010.
[14] U.N.G.A., Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Belarus, paras. 53-54, 97.23, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/15/16, Jun. 21, 2010.

Additional Sources and Contacts

Direct member(s) of World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Mr. Oleg Gulak, Chairman
Ms. Yuliya Khlashchankova, International Coordinator
Karl Liebkneht Str., 68, Office 1201
Minsk, Belarus
Tel: +375 29 590 84 40
Fax: +375 17 2224801
khlashchankova@gmail.com
a.hulak@gmail.com
office@belhelcom.org
www.belhelcom.org.

Other non-governmental organizations and individuals engaged in advocacy surrounding the death penalty

Radio Free Europe (http://www.rferl.org) and Impunity Watch (http://www.impunitywatch.net) are sources that might provide continuous coverage of the situation in Belarus, in addition to the usual international sources. The UN has observed that there is limited human rights advocacy in Belarus, and the Belarusian executive branch engages in thoroughgoing oppression, including arbitrary detention, politically motivated prosecutions, and possibly murders of individuals who oppose the administration on human rights grounds. The rights to expression and assembly are limited. Some human rights promoters have fled the country. The Belarus branch of Human Rights House (http://humanrightshouse.org/Members/Belarus/index.html) no longer operates from inside Belarus, and, as of March 2012, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (http://www.belhelcom.org/?q=en) and the Human Rights Center “Viasna” (www.spring96.org), whose leader is now in prison, seem to be the sole remaining human rights oriented non-governmental organizations in Belarus. [1]

Helpful Reports and Publications

Law.by is the national legal internet portal for Belarus, and a useful indicator of current legislative and executive developments in Belarus.

For a thorough review of the human rights violations which occurred during one capital case, see the U.N. Human Rights Committee’s Communication on the case of Vladislav Kovalev, executed in 2012 for his participation in bombing a metro station in Minsk, available at: U.N. ICCPR, Human Rights Committee, Kovaleva v. Balrus, Communication No. 2120/2011, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/106/D/2120/2011, http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G12/482/78/PDF/G1248278.pdf?OpenElement, Nov. 27, 2012.

Intl. Federation for Human Rights, Conditions of Detention in the Republic of Belarus, No. 500/2, Sep. 2, 2008.

Additional notes regarding this country

Belarus is the only retentionist country in Europe. It is also the only country in Europe which is not a member of the Council of Europe, and thus not a State Party to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms or any of its Protocols. International organizations like the Council of Europe, [2] the European Union [3] and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, [4] along with human rights groups, have continuously urged Belarus to abolish the death penalty and to ensure respect for the right to a fair trial and other fundamental rights. However, Belarus continues to apply and to execute death sentences, undermining the credibility of its professed willingness to engage in the development of political dialogue with Europe.

Our research also indicates that despite constitutional protections, an ethnic Russian minority may control an essentially authoritarian state where an increasingly impoverished ethnic Belarusian majority does not enjoy important civil and political rights. There is reason to believe this imbalance affects death penalty outcomes. In some cases aggravated murders of Belarusians by Belarusians have been treated with leniency, while other murders that cross class and potentially ethnic boundaries have been punished with the death penalty even in the presence of factors that suggest the diminished responsibility of the offender. A number of death-eligible offenses in Belarus' criminal code ¬-especially crimes such as international and domestic terrorism and acts likely to trigger domestic conflict or serve as a casus belli for Russian forces- may involve crimes most likely to be committed against ethnic Russians. [5]

References

[1] U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including the Questions of Torture and Detention, paras. 44-47, 58-65, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2005/6/Add.3, Nov. 25, 2004 (discussing use of executive control of licensing, detention and prosecution for the silencing of disfavored attorneys, journalists, activists, and non-governmental organizations); U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including Questions of: Independence of the Judiciary, Administration of Justice, Impunity, paras. 66-83, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2001/65/Add.1, Feb. 8, 2001 (discussing executive targeting of disfavored attorneys); U.N.G.A. Human Rights Committee, Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 Entitled "Human Rights Council," Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus, A/HRC/4/16, Jan. 15, 2007 (requesting investigations into the disappearances and murders of journalists and politicians and calling for international funding to address the need for human rights promotion in Belarus); Belarus: Threat to Close Lone Human Rights Group, Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2007/01/30/belarus-threat-close-lone-human-rights-group, Jan. 30, 2007; Human Rights Center “Viasna”, Statement by members of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” on the sentence to Ales Bialiatski, http://spring96.org/en/news/47644, Nov. 24, 2011; International Federation for Human Rights, Outrage and indignation: FIDH Vice-President, Ales Bialiatski, sentenced to 4 and a half years imprisonment under strict regime, http://www.fidh.org/Outrage-and-indignation-FIDH-Vice, Nov. 24, 2011.
[2] Among others, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1671 (2009), Situation in Belarus, Jun. 23, 2009 (the Assembly voted to restore Special Guest Status to the Belarusian Parliament, on the condition that Belarus declare a moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty); Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1727 (2010), Situation in Belarus: recent developments, Apr. 29, 2010 (regretting that developments in Belarus show lack of progress towards Council of Europe standards and lack of political will to embrace Council of Europe values); Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1807 (2011), The death penalty in Council of Europe member and observer states: a violation of human rights, Apr. 14, 2011; Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 1857 (2012), The situation in Belarus, Jan. 25, 2012.
[3] Among others, European Parliament, Resolution on Belarus, P7_TA(2009)0117, Dec. 17, 2009 (calling on the Government of Belarus immediately to establish a moratorium on all death sentences and executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty and to commute without delay the sentences of all prisoners currently on death row to terms of imprisonment); European Parliament, Death penalty in Belarus, in particular the cases of Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavalyou, P7_TA(2012)0063, Feb. 16, 2012; European Union, Statement by the Spokesperson of High Representative Catherine Ashton on the execution of Uladzislaw Kavalyow in Belarus, A 129/12, Mar. 17, 2012.
[4] OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Resolution on the Death Penalty, adopted at the nineteenth annual session in Oslo, Jul. 6-10, 2010; OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. President Efthymiou calls for halting of death penalty in Belarus, http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=29842c1c8782f1a5cc6f1ee42&id=3ae9bdde06&e=2d823a2dd7, Mar. 16, 2012.
[5] U.S. Dept. of State, 2009 Human Rights Report: Belarus, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136021.htm, Mar. 11, 2010; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including the Questions of Torture and Detention, paras. 39-57, E/CN.4/2005/6/Add.3, Nov. 25, 2004; Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, 2009; Decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus of 17.04.2001 No. D-114/2001, On procedure of formation of panel of People's assessors, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus, No. D-114/2001, 2001; Amnesty Intl., Belarus Man Loses Death Sentence Appeal, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/belarus-man-loses-death-sentence-appeal-20091029, Oct. 29, 2009; Radio Free Europe, Four Belarusians get Lenient Sentences in "Vigilante" Case, http://www.rferl.org/content/G119Four_Belarusians_Get_Lenient_Sentences_In_Vigilante_Case/1608670.html, Apr. 14, 2009; AP, Gypsy Laborer Faces Execution in Belarus, ICARE, http://www.icare.to/news.php?en/2009-10, Oct. 13, 2009; U.N. ECOSOC Commn. on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including Questions of: Independence of the Judiciary, Administration of Justice, Impunity, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2001/65/Add.1, Feb. 8, 2001; U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations of the Committee Against Torture: Belarus, para. 45, U.N. Doc. A/56/44, Nov. 20, 2000 (discussing torture, prison conditions and the lack of an independent judiciary and procuracy).

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