Belarus not ready to abolish death penalty, envoy says

Belarus is not yet ready to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Yury Ambrazevich, Belarus’ permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva, said on October 9, speaking at the 124th session of the UN Human Rights Committee.

According to Mr. Ambrazevich, Belarus was recommended to ratify the Second Optional Protocol in the UN Universal Periodic Review. “We took these recommendations into account, but Belarus is not yet ready for this,” he said. “It has to do with public opinion in our country on the application of the death penalty.”

“However, we did not reject the recommendations,” Mr. Ambrazevich said. “We left open the possibility of considering them and joining the protocol in the future in case public opinion changes.”

There are still more supporters of the death penalty in Belarus than its opponents, Mr. Ambrazevich noted.

On October 8 and 9, the UN Human Rights Committee discussed the Belarusian government’s fifth periodic report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The previous report was submitted by Minsk to the UN in 1997.

In addition, Belarusian human rights groups unveiled their “alternative” report on the implementation by Belarus of the Covenant.

Belarus is the only country in Europe and the post-Soviet region where the death sentence remains a sentencing option and prisoners are executed.

More than 400 people have been sentenced to death and executed in Belarus since the country acquired independence in 1991. Alyaksandr Lukashenka is known to have pardoned only one death row inmate.