Commemoration of victims of Stalinist repression: Statkevich holds on to protest strategy
On October 29th, 2915, a street action with about 120 participants was held near the KGB building in the centre of Minsk to commemorate the victims of Stalinist repression. Mikola Statkevich, who continued his attempts to expand the ‘freedom space’, initiated the action.
The participants lined up with candles in their hands in front of the building, and then left the candles on the steps at the KGB’s main entrance. This was the fourth protest action held by Mikola Statkevich. It should be noted that despite the fact that no arrests have been reported the number of participants has not grown compared with the earlier actions.
On the night of October 29th -30th, 1937, more than 100 representatives of the Belarusian national elite – writers, poets, scientists and public figures were executed in the NKVD building in Minsk (now the KGB headquarters).
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.