5 December 2016
GENEVA (5 December 2016) – United Nations human rights experts are outraged by Belarus’ continued use of the death penalty, following reports that two men whose cases were before the United Nations Human Rights Committee were executed, despite a specific request from the Committee not to carry out the planned executions.
“Once again, the Belarus authorities have ignored the Human Rights Committee’s request not to carry out death sentences, pending the examination of the cases. The decision to proceed with the execution of Sergey Khmelevsky and Gennady Yakovitsky is unacceptable and shows flagrant disregard for international human rights law,” said Fabian Salvioli, the Chair of the Human Rights Committee.
Non-compliance with the Committee’s request for interim measures to halt the executions constitutes a violation by Belarus of its obligations under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which it is a State party. According to the Human Rights Committee*, such requests are binding.
Belarus remains the only country in Europe and Central Asia that applies the death penalty, despite repeated calls for its abolition from many in the international community, including the members of the European Union and the Council of Europe.
“We reiterate our concern about the application of the death penalty in Belarus and once again urge the Belarusian authorities to adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, as an interim legal step toward its full abolition. We also call on the Belarus Government to assume its international obligations by upholding the Committee’s requests for interim measures,” said Nigel Rodley, the Committee’s Special Rapporteur on New Communications and Interim Measures.
Reports indicate that Mr. Khmelevsky and Mr. Yakovitsky - who were found guilty of a series of crimes, including murder, and were sentenced to death in the first months of 2016 - were executed in November. Since 2010, Belarus has executed 10 people whose cases were registered for examination by the Committee under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, with a request for interim measures to stop their execution.
“Following reports of the two executions, UN Human Rights Committee requested the State party to provide clarification regarding the current situation of Mr. Khmelevskey and Mr. Yakovitsky by 1 December 2016. The deadline passed and we have no reply from Belarusian authorities,” said Nigel Rodley.
The Human Rights Committee has indicated that it will follow its usual practice and proceed with consideration of Mr. Khmelevsky’s and Mr. Yakovitsky’s cases. The complaints before the Committee are that their trial had been unfair. Mr. Khmelevsky also said he had been ill-treated by the police; Mr. Yakovitsky said he had been kept handcuffed in a cage during the trial. It was further alleged that both men were not brought promptly before a judge upon arrest and had limited access to a lawyer.
* Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 33: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/CCPR.C.GC.33.pdf
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Background: The Human Rights Committee is one of 10 committees, known as Treaty Bodies that monitor implementation by States of the core international human rights treaties, in this case the International Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/ccpr/pages/ccprindex.aspx
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