Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

Judiciary said to be ready for death penalty abolition

Belarus judiciary is ready to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty, Valyantsin Sukala, chairman of the Supreme Court, told reporters in Minsk on June 25. "If the constitution of Belarus describes this exceptional type of punishment as temporary, this provision will inevitably entail its abolition," he said.

Mr. Sukala said that a moratorium on capital punishment could be an intermediate stage, describing the measure as "quite realistic and well-founded."

The Supreme Court chairman stressed that life imprisonment was equal to the death penalty in terms of severity. He noted that very few death sentences were handed down by Belarusian courts. Only 25 countries apply capital punishment at present and 34 more have a moratorium on it, according to him.

The Supreme Court chairman acknowledged that the abolition of capital punishment could divide Belarusian society. "The people who have suffered as a result of such grave crimes will apparently hold the opposite opinion. But if such a decision is made, it will be compulsory for the judiciary," he said. Mr. Sukala stressed that a decision on the matter would rest with Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Seven people were sentenced to life in prison and two to death in Belarus in 2008, Mr. Sukala said. A total of 1,300 people received a death sentence in the world last year.

The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on June 23 voted to restore the Belarusian parliaments Special Guest status in the Assembly only after Minsk declares a moratorium on the death penalty.

More than 80 percent of Belarusians voted against the abolition of capital punishment in the countrys referendum in 1996.