PACE rapporteur calls for one-year moratorium on death penalty

Andrea Rigoni, rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the situation in Belarus, on Tuesday called for a one-year moratorium on the death penalty in the country.

Speaking at an international conference in Minsk, the Italian MP referred to multiple studies suggesting that capital punishment had no deterrent effect, and said that a possible moratorium could be used to check whether that was true.

Mr. Rigoni said that Belarus remained Europe's black hole because it was not a member of the Council of Europe and continued applying capital punishment.

According to the rapporteur, Belarus was stripped of its "special guest" status in PACE in 1997 and still cannot get it back because of the continued use of the death penalty.

Aleh Hulak, chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, noted that a moratorium on the death penalty would be a step that could reconcile opponents and proponents of executions. "This is a neutral step that would satisfy everyone," he said.

Human rights defender Andrey Paluda said that four executions had been carried out in Belarus since the start of this year and one more convict remained on the death row, waiting to be put to death.

Many death row inmates in Belarus are executed when the UN Human Rights Committee prepares to consider their complaints and has just asked the authorities to postpone their execution pending their consideration, the activist stressed.

Valyantsin Stefanovich, of the Vyasna Human Rights Center, said that the matter had been discussed by the government for years but no specific action had been taken.

"One would like the government to make it clear whether the imposition of a moratorium as such is on the agenda, or whether we will just talk much and continue applying the death penalty," he said.

Responding to this, Andrey Bushyla, head of the Belarusian foreign ministry's European Cooperation Directorate, said, "We may have not yet gotten down directly to the imposition of a moratorium but laws have gradually been made more humane."