Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou, both 25 years old, were condemned to death on 30 November 2011, on charges of plotting a powerful blast in the Minsk underground on 11 April 2011. The death sentence was announced by First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court, Aliaksandr Ferdartsou, after a two-and-a-half-month trial which started on 15 September 2011.
Both men were arrested and detained on 12 April 2011, as the principal suspects in orchestrating the explosion which killed 15 people at one of the city’s busiest metro stations, situated within 100m of the presidential administration building. Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou were also accused of organizing the 2005 and 2008 explosions in Vitebsk and Minsk.
On 30 November, the 114-page verdict was read aloud at the request of the two defendants during the trial session. In the course of the trial, conflicting testimony cast doubt on the defendants’ involvement in organizing the blasts. Dzmitry Kanavalau recanted his earlier testimony, dated 18 April 2011, in which he had admitted his connection to the various blasts, arguing that he had confessed to those crimes under psychological pressure and torture.
Moreover, observers reported serious procedural violations during the preliminary investigation and the judicial examination of the case, sufficient to constitute a blatant infringement of the defendants’ rights to a transparent and impartial trial. Neither motive nor the exact circumstances of the crime were ever established in Court.
“The application of the death penalty in the centre of Europe cannot be tolerated” , stated Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. “The nature of this sentence is in a total contradiction of international standards. Moreover, the evidence presented to the Court against Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou is questionable and their right to a fair trial has not been respected. In these circumstances, their execution equates to simple murder.”
The 2007 United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a universal moratorium on the use of the death penalty confirms the growing international momentum towards its abolition. Today, more than two thirds of countries around the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. FIDH reminds that Belarus itself is a party to a number of international treaties guaranteeing its citizens the right to life, as well as the right to a fair trial, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Belarus must also comply with international customary standards including those enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
FIDH calls on the Belarusian authorities to:
- review the imposition of the death penalty on Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou;
- open an investigation into the conditions in which the confessions of Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou were obtained;
- and abolish the death penalty for all crimes and declare an immediate moratorium on the imposition and execution of the death penalty without delay.