Minsk ponders death penalty moratorium benefits

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April 22, 2016 18:28

On April 11th, Alexander Hessel, Council of Europe Director for political issues visited Minsk.

Meetings in Minsk with CoE representative, Alexander Hessel, imply that Belarus is considering options to open an additional communication channel with the EU. In addition, Belarus may try to "swap" a moratorium on the death penalty with one of the conditions for the resumption of EU-Belarus dialogue.

In Minsk, Mr. Hessel gave a lecture at the Belarusian State University, met with Foreign Ministry officials and the Constitutional Court. Meeting at the Constitutional Court in particular, may be regarded as an implication that the Belarusian authorities are considering a moratorium on the death penalty as an option. Moratorium on the death penalty is an obligatory condition for the resumption of talks for Belarus’ accession to the Council of Europe.

The day after Hessel’s visit, Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Jean-Claude Minion made a statement about the Council of Europe’s readiness to continue talks with Belarus about its membership in the CoE, but only if the moratorium on the death penalty was introduced. According to Mignon, such a step would show that Belarus “shares European values”.

If Belarusian authorities see benefits from the resumption of the dialogue with the CoE, they might include the moratorium on the death penalty in the negotiations package put forward by the EU (release and rehabilitation of political prisoners, democratization of the political system, etc). In particular, the authorities may try to “swap” the moratorium with the demand of political prisoners’ rehabilitation.

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President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.

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