The BHC has sent information to the Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism and on the human rights situation in Belarus on amendments to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, which provide for the expansion of the possibilities for the use of the death penalty.
On April 27, the House of Representatives of the National Assembly adopted in two readings a bill on amendments to the Criminal Code, according to which the possibilities of applying the death penalty are expanded. In particular, by amending part 1 of Article 59 and part 2 of Article 67 of the Criminal Code, it is proposed to apply the death penalty for preparation for crimes and attempted crimes provided for in part 2 of article 124 (An act of terrorism against a representative of a foreign State or international organization), part 3 of article 126 (an act of international terrorism), part 3 of article 289 (Act of terrorism), part 2 of article 359 (Act of terrorism against a state or public figure) of the Criminal Code. On May 4, the bill was approved by the Council of the Republic.
In the submission, we drew attention to the comment of the House of Representatives that the purpose of such amendments was “to have a deterrent effect on destructive elements, as well as to demonstrate the resolute struggle of the state against terrorist activities.” In this regard, we stressed that it was the inevitability, not the severity of punishment, that was a deterrent factor in committing a crime.
The BHC also pointed out that there was no public discussion on this issue, while discussion of such complex and sensitive issues was extremely necessary.
According to the BHC, such actions can be qualified as a violation by Belarus of its obligations under international law, in particular paragraph 2 of article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that death sentences may be imposed only for the most serious crimes. The Human Rights Committee, in turn, clarified in General comments No. 36 that the term "the most serious crimes" should be interpreted restrictively and mean only crimes of extreme gravity related to premeditated murder. We drew attention to the Committee's position that, since the death penalty was incompatible with full respect for the right to life, States should strive for its absolute elimination de facto and de jure. And it is contrary to the object and purpose of article 6 for States to take steps to increase de facto the rate and extent in which they resort to the death penalty, or to reduce the number of pardons and commutations they grant.
Also these days a joint statement of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the HRC "Viasna" and the public campaign "Human rights activists against the death penalty" was published. Human rights activists call on the authorities to refuse to amend the legislation aimed at expanding the use of the death penalty (text in ru).