EU: Now is the time to act to help end the death penalty in Belarus

(Brussels, 24 March) The EU should use the new period of engagement with Belarus to press for the abolition of the death penalty, says Amnesty International in a letter addressed to Czech Foreign Minister Mr Schwarzenberg (available here).

Amnesty International releases a new report "Ending executions in Europe: Towards abolition of the death penalty in Belarus" detailing how the use of the death penalty in Belarus is compounded by a flawed criminal justice system. There is credible evidence that torture and ill-treatment are used to extract "confessions" and that condemned prisoners do not have access to effective appeal mechanisms. The threat of execution has also been used to suppress political activity.

"Europe would be a 'death penalty free zone' if it were not for Belarus where four executions were carried out in 2008" said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International's EU Office.

"Executions are carried out by a gunshot to the back of the head and no official information is given to relatives about the date of the execution or where the body is buried" he added.

Over the past five months, Amnesty International has been monitoring the increased high-level EU-Belarus dialogue including bilateral contacts and intensified technical cooperation. The planned launch of a Human Rights Dialogue with Belarus in the near future was specifically recommended by the last General Affairs and External Relations Council.

Amnesty International calls on the EU to obtain commitments from the Belarusian authorities to:

 immediately establish a moratorium on all death sentences and executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty

 commute without delay the sentences of all prisoners currently on death row to terms of imprisonment.

Click here to access the report: Belarus: Ending Executions in Europe: Towards abolition of the death penalty in Belarus

For further comment/background and interviews:

Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):

Tel: 32-2-5021499

Fax: 32-2-5025686




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