UN calls on Belarus to halt execution

Simulation of execution method used in Belarus - executioner shoots victim in back of head with silenced pistol, February 2009

The United Nations has echoed Amnesty International's call to halt the imminent execution of a man accused of murdering of six elderly women in Belarus.

Vasily Yuzepchuk was sentenced to death on 29 June. His lawyer says his investigation and trial were fundamentally flawed and that Yuzepchuk was beaten to force him to confess.

Valery Yuzepchuk's lawyer submitted a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee, which was registered on 12 October. The Committee has now called on the Belarusian government not to execute Yuzepchuk until it has considered the case.

"The Belarusian government has voluntarily taken on the obligation to allow for complaints to the Human Rights Committee. To execute Valery Yuzepchuk in the face of a request by the Human Rights Committee would undermine the effectiveness of this remedy," said Heather McGill, Amnesty International's expert on Belarus.

Vasily Yuzepchuk, originally from Ukraine, belongs to the marginalized Roma ethnic group. He may have an intellectual disability and his lawyer has stated that he is illiterate and unable to distinguish the months of the year.

Yuzepchuk has alleged that he was beaten while in pre-trial detention on two separate occasions in January and in March.

The Belarus Supreme Court recently rejected an appeal against his death sentence. Vasily Yuzepchuk was officially informed of this on 13 October and has 10 days from that date to apply for clemency from Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenka.

Belarus is the only country in Europe and Central Asia still executing prisoners.

"The Belarusian authorities must immediately declare moratorium on all executions and death sentences. They must commute without delay the sentences of all prisoners currently on death row to terms of imprisonment," said Heather McGill.

The use of the death penalty in Belarus is compounded by a flawed criminal justice system that administers capital punishment in a manner that violates international laws and standards pertaining to the death penalty. There is credible evidence that torture and ill-treatment are used to extract "confessions".

Condemned prisoners are given no warning that they are about to be executed and they are usually executed within minutes of being told that their appeal for clemency has been rejected.

They are taken first to one room where and told their appeal for clemency had been turned down. They are then taken to a neighbouring room where they are forced to their knees and shot in the back of the head.

Their families will only be informed days or sometimes weeks after the execution that their relative has been executed, and they are not given the body or told of the burial site.



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