Minsk advocates for Helsinki-2

December 12, 2016 10:36
Image: Russian Council

Minsk aspires to use all means available, including the OSCE to relax tension between Russia and the West. Minsk hopes that vigorous diplomacy and peace efforts will help reduce the risks of being drawn in the regional confrontation.

At the OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg, Foreign Minister Makei said that Belarus was ready to host a meeting for the leaders of Russia, the US, EU, and China "to have a frank conversation about the reasons of the crisis in the international relations”.

Last week, the OSCE released the final report on the 2016 parliamentary elections in Belarus, emphasising that despite some improvements, the elections were non-transparent and non-competitive, and recommending improving the electoral procedures. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said the conclusion created a basis for a dialogue. On December 9th, 2016, Minsk hosted a panel discussion on the implementation of the National Human Rights Plan with the participation of public officials and civil society representatives.

Belarus’ cooperation with the EU and international institutions has taken a constructive path. The Belarusian authorities aim to strengthen the Belarusian-European relations by enhancing Belarus’ image as a neutral state and a peace facilitator in the regional conflicts. That said, Minsk is eager to continue the Minsk process, preserve and develop good-neighbourly relations with Ukraine.

The Belarusian authorities believe the Belarusian-European normalisation is important, primarily because they are interested in reducing tension in the region, which threatens Belarus’ security. Minsk hopes that vigorous diplomacy and peace efforts will help reduce the risks of being drawn in the regional confrontation.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.