The Belarusian authorities must stop the execution of a homeless man who was sentenced to death for murder earlier this week, Amnesty International said yesterday (3 May).
The man, originally from Ukraine and who has not been named, is one of two serving prisoners sentenced on Tuesday in connection with the murder of a fellow prisoner by a group of inmates in a jail in Mahiliou, in eastern Belarus.
Both of those sentenced are already serving jail terms for previous crimes, and for one the cumulative sentence is the death penalty, Belarus’ prosecutor’s office said. The condemned man is from the Zhytomyr region in Ukraine and was homeless in Belarus. There is little further information on the case.
It is Belarus’ first death sentence since the high-profile case of Uladzslau Kavalyou and Dzmitry Kanavalau, who were sentenced to death in November 2011 and executed in March last year. The death sentence entered into force on 3 May and the man could be executed within months.
Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director David Diaz-Jogeix said: “Belarus’ status at Europe’s sole executioner is shameful. The authorities must immediately commute this death sentence and establish an official moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
“The Belarus authorities must provide more objective information on this case, rather than carrying out this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment in a typically secretive manner.”
Amnesty has longstanding concerns about the right to a fair trial and about secrecy surrounding the death penalty in Belarus. Prisoners risk being tortured into 'confessing', while those condemned to death do not have access to adequate appeal procedures. Executions are carried out by shooting the condemned person in the back of the head, with prisoners only informed hours, or even minutes, before they are about to be executed. Prisoners’ bodies are not returned to their families for burial, and families are not told where they are buried.