Minsk carries out execution amid normalization of relations with European Union

May 26, 2016 18:32

According to the Amnesty International, Belarusian authorities have executed 22-year-old Belarusian Sergei Ivanov after a break since November 2014 (death sentences were handed down but not executed). Official Minsk took a pause in executions, which allowed avoiding additional tension in the process of normalisation with the EU. It is worth noting that in early 2016, the Belarusian authorities demonstrated willingness to engage in a dialogue with European institutions over the introduction of a moratorium or abolishing the death penalty, however with no real intent to change the existing practice. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities are satisfied with the level and the pace of normalisation of the Belarusian-European relations. Minsk is likely to attempt to expand the room for manoeuvre in relations with the European Union before the parliamentary elections in Belarus.

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Death penalty discussion in Belarus: yet not ready for either abolition or moratorium
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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.