OSCE/ODIHR calls again on Belarus to introduce moratorium on death penalty

Reacting to the reported execution in Belarus of Syarhey Iwanow and a 6 May Supreme Court ruling upholding the death sentence against Sergei Khmelevsky, Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), on May 9 again called on Belarus to introduce an immediate moratorium on executions, as a step towards complete abolition of the death penalty.

“I am extremely concerned by reports of another execution in Belarus – of Syarhey Iwanow – and by the confirmation of the death sentence against Sergei Khmelevsky by the Supreme Court,” the ODIHR Director said. “It is clear that by abolishing the death penalty, most OSCE participating States have recognized the inherently cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of capital punishment.”

OSCE participating States have committed themselves to keep the question of abolishing capital punishment under consideration. This question was the focus of the  "Death Penalty: Transcending the Divide" conference organized by the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus and the British Embassy in Minsk in March of this year.

“I am convinced that the execution of Syarhey Iwanow goes against the ongoing discussions in Belarus and the growing international trend towards the abolition of a punishment that represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity,” Director Link said.

Annually, ODIHR publishes The Death Penalty in the OSCE Area: Background Paper, providing information on the status of the death penalty across the Organization’s 57 participating States. Since the 2015 edition of the Background Paper, Mongolia has become the 52nd participating State to abolish the death penalty in law. Belarus and the United States are the only OSCE participating States to maintain the death penalty in practice.