Updated at 16:42,06-12-2016

Two Convicts Executed in Belarus

Two death row inmates were executed in Belarus last week, Amnesty International said with reference to the mother of one of the convicts.

The international human rights watchdog said that Andrey Zhuk, 25, and Vasil Yuzepchuk, 30, had been executed by shooting.

Amnesty International referred to Mr. Zhuk's mother who was told by prison staff about the executions.
When reached by BelaPAN on Tuesday, a representative of the interior ministry failed to either confirm or deny the report.

Mr. Zhuk was sentenced to death in July 2009 over the murder of two employees of a farming company in the Salihorsk district, Minsk region, earlier that year.

His two accomplices were sentenced to prison terms. Mr. Zhuk was found guilty of murdering the two men to steal payroll money in their car.

Mr. Yuzepchuk was sentenced to death in June last year. The Brest Regional Court found him guilty of murdering and robbing six old women in villages in the Drahichyn district.

Amnesty International said earlier that the investigation and trial in both cases had been flawed.
"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment. It violates the right to life and should be abolished," said Halya Gowan, director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia program.

"No executions were reported in Belarus in 2009 and for the first time since Amnesty International began keeping records Europe was an execution-free zone last year. It is very disappointing that the Belarusian authorities have taken this step, against the tide of world opinion that is moving toward the abolition of the death penalty."

Ms. Gowan said that the two convicts had been executed "without being granted a last meeting with their relatives." "The authorities must give their bodies and belongings to their relatives, should they wish to receive them. If they refuse to hand over the bodies, they must at least inform the relatives where their loved ones were buried," she said.

Both Amnesty International and the Council of Europe had repeatedly called on the Belarusian authorities to grant clemency to both convicts.

Belarus is the only country in Europe and the post-Soviet region where the death sentence remains a sentencing option and prisoners are executed. The Belarusian authorities have preserved the death penalty for "premeditated, aggravated murder" and 12 other peacetime offenses.

In 2006, the government enacted an amendment to the Criminal Code, which indicated the temporary nature of the use of the death penalty in Belarus.

Executions in Belarus are carried out by a gunshot to the back of the head. Neither the condemned nor relatives are told of the scheduled date of the execution, and the relatives are not told where the body is buried.