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Belarus: Capital Punishment

Volume 501: debated on Thursday 26 November 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representation he has made to the Belarus Government on the decision of the Belarus Supreme Court to reject the appeals of Vasily Yusepchuk and Andrei Zhuk against the death sentence; and what discussions he has had on the matter at the Council of Europe. (301243)

We and EU partners have raised the cases of Vasily Yusepchuk and Andrei Zhuk with the Belarusian authorities on a number of occasions. We also took part in a European Commission press conference on 12 October 2009 to mark World Day Against the Death Penalty. I referenced two cases in a Westminster Hall debate on the global abolition of the death penalty on 28 October 2009, Official Report, column 71WH. EU member states are working with local and international non-governmental organisations to promote public debate, and publicise EU views on the death penalty. We continue to urge Belarus to abolish the death penalty or, as an initial measure, to introduce a moratorium.

The Council of Europe (CoE) plays close attention to developments in Belarus. In June 2009 the CoE Parliamentary Assembly agreed to the restoration of the Special Guest status of the Belarusian Parliament, which had been suspended in 1997, only after a moratorium on the death penalty. On 30 October 2009 a joint statement was issued by the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the CoE and the Secretary-General of the CoE calling on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to grant clemency, to declare a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in Belarus and to commute the sentences of all prisoners sentenced to death to terms of imprisonment.