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“The bloody reality of Belarus’ judicial system stains Europe” – UN expert says of executions

GENEVA (5 December 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, has said that the recent executions carried out by Belarus, and confirmed last week, show once again the persistent disregard for human rights in the country. 

“I strongly condemn the recent executions of Sergey Khmelevski, Ivan Kulesh, and Guennadi Yakovitsky,” Mr. Haraszti said. “The three executions testify once again to the blatant disdain of Belarusian authorities for the right to life and also their staunch non-cooperation with the international human rights system.”

The expert explained that the cases of Mr. Khmelevski and Mr. Yakovitsky were pending before the UN Human Rights Committee, which has oversight power on Belarus’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights*. As a signatory to the Covenant, Belarus is obliged to wait out and respond to the Committee’s judgements.

“I am dismayed by open defiance of international human rights procedures by the judicial apparatus of Belarus. These executions bring their total number to four since the beginning of the year,” the Rapporteur said, recalling the case of Sergey Ivanov, who was executed earlier this year, despite of the fact that his case was also pending before the Human Rights Committee.

“The execution of the three came only days after the Government abstained at the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly on a resolution on a global moratorium for the death penalty, a stance that many on the continent and beyond evaluated as promising,” Mr. Haraszti said.

“In a few weeks, the Belarusian Government will also co-organize an international event ‘studying’ the abolition of the death penalty,” he noted. “The authorities have repeated this ambiguous practice several times over the years, while executions went on uninterrupted.”

Belarus continues to be the only country in Europe and Central Asia that applies the death penalty, which exclude the country from being part of the Council of Europe.

“I continue to be very concerned for those in the death row in Belarus. Once again, I call upon the Belarusian authorities to adopt soonest a moratorium on the death penalty,” the Special Rapporteur said. “In the meantime, the President could use his power to commute death sentences into life sentences, as provided by the Constitution.”

(*) Check the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CCPR.aspx


Mr. Miklós Haraszti (Hungary) was designated as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012. In the 70s, Mr. Haraszti was a founder of Hungary’s human rights and free press movement, and in the 1990s he was a Member of the Hungarian Parliament. From 2004 to 2010, he served as the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. Since 2010, he has been a Professor at several universities teaching media democratisation. Learn more, log on to:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/BY/Pages/SRBelarus.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’ s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Belarus: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/BYIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact Mr. Alexandre Girard (+41 22 917 9180 / agirard@ohchr.org) or write to sr-belarus@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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