Minsk not interested in full PACE membership

April 22, 2016 19:16

Last week, Chairman of the House of Representatives Vladimir Andreichenko said that Belarus had intensified her efforts to restore the special guest status in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Official Minsk is nevertheless unwilling to meet conditions for the restoration of the guest status in the PACE and to impose a moratorium on the death penalty, hoping to confine to public debate on this issue. The Belarusian authorities are neither interested in full PACE membership, nor in implementing a number of political commitments. Belarus’ recognition of the jurisdiction of the Court of Human Rights is fraught with additional financial burden if Belarusians gain the right to file claims against the state. Restoring the special guest status in PACE, on the other hand, would significantly level up the Belarusian Parliament’s status on the international arena as a legitimate and democratically elected representative body and eventually would oust the opposition from the settlement process in Belarusian-European relations.

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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.