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Belarus sentences murderer to death, EU issues statement

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Viktar Paulau and his lawyer / "Vitsebskaya Viasna"

On 30 July, Viciebsk regional court sentenced Viktar Paulau to death. He was found guilty of murdering two retired women, reports the Human Rights Center "Viasna.

Prosecutor Vital Suzanski noted the aggravating factor in the case: the murder was committed by a man who had previously committed a similar crime.

Investigators also accused Paulau of robbery. However, the prosecutor suggested that his actions should be considered theft.

The murder took place on 30 December 2018 in the village of Prysusyna, the Viciebsk region. Viktar Paulau, 50-year-old, came to the house of the retired sisters and beat them severely. He also took their money and a few bottles of wine. The bodies of the women were not found until a few days later.

Paulau's lawyer insisted that the murder was the result of a quarrel and was provoked by one of the women. She allegedly insulted the man and complained about the quality of the barn he had built. The defender believes that Paulau did not intend to kill the women but simply came to buy the wines they were selling.

In his last word, the defendant expressed remorse and asked the court not to apply the death penalty to him.

This year it's the second death sentence in Belarus. In January, Alyaksandr Asipovich was sentenced to death for the murder of two girls in Babruisk. On May 14, the Supreme Court considered Asipovich's appeal and left the sentence unchanged.

Reacting to the sentence, the European Union wrote in a statement: 

"The European Union expresses its sincere sympathy to the families and friends of the victims. 

Belarus is the only country in all of Europe that still executes people. The death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to crime, and any errors become irreversible. It is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and a violation of the right to life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Commuting the remaining death sentences and introducing a moratorium on the death penalty would be a positive first step towards its abolition. 

Tangible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal human rights, including on the death penalty, remain key for shaping the EU's future policy towards Belarus."