Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Makey: belarusian society should become ripe for abolition of death penalty

Naviny.by

Belarusian society should become ripe for the abolition of the death penalty, Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey said in an interview with BelaPAN on Monday.

“The issue of the abolition of the death penalty should not be resolved at an artificially accelerated pace,” Mr. Makey said.

This issue is very sensitive for not only Belarus, he noted. “We can see that in some neighboring countries that are members of the Council of Europe, the public are in favor of reestablishing the death penalty,” he said.

Mr. Makey recalled that more than 80 percent of those who took part in a 1996 national referendum voted against abolishing the death penalty. “We regularly conduct public opinion polls and they find that this proportion does not decrease,” he said. Even the most optimistic estimate puts the proportion of opponents of the abolition of capital punishment at almost 65 percent, which suggests that society is not yet ready for that, he noted.

However, the government may consider imposing a moratorium on the death penalty if circumstances permit, Mr. Makey said.

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.

The death penalty was abolished thrice in Belarus since 1912 but was always restored. 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.

The European Union and many international organizations have long called on Belarus to declare a moratorium on the death penalty.

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.

According to Amnesty International, more than 400 people have been executed in Belarus in the last 20 years.

Two people are known to have been executed in Belarus since the beginning of 2014.