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PACE rapporteurs express dismay at death sentence in Belarus

Two rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the council of Europe (PACE) have expressed their dismay at a death sentence handed down in Belarus last week, and urged the authorities not to carry it out.

“Capital punishment runs counter to the values of the Council of Europe and has no place in our continent,” said Andrea Rigoni (Italy, ALDE), PACE’s rapporteur on the situation in Belarus, and Marietta Karamanli (France, SOC), general rapporteur on abolition of the death penalty.

“Irrespective of the gravity of the crimes committed by the offender, and while expressing all our sympathy to the families of the victims, we expect this sentence not to be carried out should it be confirmed on appeal,” they said. Ivan Kulesh was sentenced to death by the Hrodna Regional Court on 20 November.

“We particularly regret this death sentence because it interrupts a relatively positive trend in relations between Belarus and European organisations, marked by the liberation of all political prisoners in Belarus, the absence of violence during and after the presidential elections – which were observed by the Parliamentary Assembly for the first time since 2001 at the invitation of the Belarusian parliament – and the temporary suspension of sanctions by the European Union,” they said.

“We strongly urge the Belarusian leadership to introduce a moratorium on capital punishment, as a step towards its full abolition. This decision, which could be taken at any time either by the President, the parliament, or the Constitutional Court, would represent progress in terms of human rights protection but would also show that the authorities are willing to strengthen relations with European organisations.”