Belarusian authorities propose to discuss a moratorium on the death penalty
On March 20, after the Summit of the EurAsEC, Pesident Lukashenko was interviewed by a Russian English-speaking TV channel Russia Today, network broadcasting outside Russia.
The cornerstone of the interview was the issue of execution of two defendants in the case of the terrorist attack in the Minsk metro on April 11, 2011. Lukashenko rigidly insisted on him being right, which was not surprising, bearing in mind that both convicts were executed virtually the day before. The President reasoned, that “this was exceptionally a criminal case, which should not be politicized”.
Also Lukashenko reiterated twice that the EU had not addressed him with a request to postpone the executions. Thereby the President emphasized he did not violate any commitments and also made it clear he was ready to discuss the death penalty with the EU.
So, paradoxically, Lukashenko has opened the prospects for negotiations on the introduction of a moratorium on executions in Belarus. On the following day, Chairman of the Constitutional Court Petr Miklashevich explained the procedures for imposing of a moratorium or abolition of the death penalty.
We have previously pointed to the paradoxical behaviour of the authorities in the international relations, i.e. that they intersperse tough measures with promises of liberalization. Introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty is a lengthy procedure, requiring parliamentary vote, which could prolong the process of normalization of the relations between Belarus and the EU and made to look not as a concession and a sign of weakness, but as a “constructive dialogue”.
At the same time, such shift of accents would help the authorities to distract the public attention from other requirements of the EU and the U.S., namely, the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners and democratization of the electoral system.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.