Belarus: third consecutive execution concealed for nearly a month from the public and relatives

Press release
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Minsk - Paris. Execution of Henadz Yakavitski on 5 November 2016 is the fourth execution in 2016, making it the highest number of executions per year since 2008. All four executions took place after the EU lifted in February 2016 the restrictive measures imposed on Belarus for human rights violations. FIDH and its member organisation in Belarus HRC "Viasna" call on the international community to use all diplomatic leverages to prompt Belarus to announce an immediate moratorium on death penalty as the first step towards the abolition.

In Belarus, the public is not informed of executions. Moreover, pursuant to the Belarusian legislation, relatives of Henadz Yakavitski and of Ivan Kulesh and Siarhei Khmialeuski, also executed on 5 November 2016, were not notified neither in advance of the execution nor immediately thereafter. Legislation also prohibits handing over of their bodies to families. Previously the UN has qualified such practice as torture and ill-treatment of death convicts relatives. For detailed information about the three death verdicts, download the recent FIDH-HRC "Viasna" report "Death penalty in Belarus: Murder on (Un)Lawful Grounds".

The UN asked the Belarusian authorities not to proceed with the executions of Henadz Yakavitski and Siarhei Khmialeuski since their complaints are being considered by the Committee. The Belarusian authorities ignored the requests, as they did in past in eight other cases related to the application of the death penalty. The decision on the respective complaints by Henadz Yakavitski and Siarhei Khmialeuski is forthcoming.

"I attended the verdict hearing of a convict who was sentenced to death and who is now the last on death row. It was the most chilling ordeal I have ever experienced"

Florence Bellivier, FIDH Deputy Secretary-General who presented the FIDH-HRC "Viasna" report mentioned above on 5 October 2016 in Minsk. On the eve of the report publication, Florence Bellivier was present when the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence of Siarhei Vostrykau.

For nearly a month prior to the notification of the execution - dated 24 November 2016 and delivered on 1 December 2016 - the relatives of Henadz Yakavitski had not received letters from him. As reported to FIDH by the daugther of Henadz Yakavitski in June 2016, non-receipt of his letters was regular and caused her tremendous anguish:

"Since the death sentence entered into effect - it’s been three months now - we systematically do not receive letters from him. So I am in a permanent state of uncertainty about his state and whether he’s alive at all. In April we learned about the execution of one death convict and I had no possibility of finding out what happened to my father. When I saw him at our next meeting, I asked him to write to me. He told me that he had. I called everyone he had written, but none of the letters ever arrived", said Aliaksandra Yakavitskaya.

"Death convicts are treated by the prison staff as if they were no longer "among the living". Visits with lawyers are frequently denied, their correspondence censored or withheld in an effort to prevent the families from knowing whether their relatives are still alive

Andrei Paluda, coordinator of the Campaign "Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus"


Currently one death convict is awaiting execution in Minsk Pre-trial detention centre No. 1 in conditions which amount to torture as denounced in the joint FIDH - HRC "Viasna" report. Forbidden to take walks, they are prohibited from sitting on their bed during day-time and from talking about their detention conditions with their family members. When outside their cell, they are transferred in a humiliating position - guards carry them with their head bent down towards their knees and their arms are handcuffed and lifted behind their back.

FIDH and HRC "Viasna" strongly oppose the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances and work for its global abolition. FIDH is a member of the World Coalition against the death Penalty.

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