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PACE: condemnation of recent executions in Belarus

Andrea Rigoni (Italy, ALDE), Rapporteur on the situation in Belarus and Alain Destexhe (Belgium, ALDE), Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), have expressed deep concern at press reports according to which death convicts Ivan Kulesh, 28, and Siarhei Khmialeuski, 31, have been executed in November in Belarus.

“The disturbing news comes at a very delicate time for Belarus, which is attempting to rebuild good relations with Europe and its institutions. Infringing upon the most important human right, the right to life, a principle shared by all Council of Europe member States, is not the way to improve relations with our Organisation, which is based on shared fundamental values” they said.

Mr Rigoni noted that Belarus is co-organising a conference on the abolition of the death penalty and public opinion, together with the Council of Europe and the support of the British Magna Carta Fund, on 13 December in Minsk. “Deeds must follow words. The authorities’ insistence on carrying out executions, while unwilling to reveal all but the barest of information, underlines the opaque and troubling nature of Belarus’ justice system, which needs profound reforms”, he added. Mr Destexhe stressed that the position of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on the incompatibility of membership in the Council of Europe and capital punishment remains unchanged.

“We also recall that, in the Belarusian constitution, the presence of a provision on the death penalty is considered as a transitional measure and that no legal impediment prevents either President Lukashenko or the parliament from introducing a moratorium on executions”, they concluded.