Rybakov: Death penalty is not prohibited by international law
MINSK (BelTA) - Belarus has even more stringent restrictions on the use of the death penalty than provided for in the international covenant, Belarus' Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Valentin Rybakov said when speaking at the international conference Death Penalty: Transcending the Divide in Minsk on 10 March, BelTA has learned.
Valentin Rybakov said that from the standpoint of international law, the death penalty is not universally prohibited. “The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Belarus is party, sets some restrictions on the use of the death penalty,” he noted. “Death sentences may be imposed only for the gravest crimes. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women,” Valentin Rybakov cited the sixth article of the Covenant.
“Belarus has set even more stringent restrictions on the use of the death penalty than those provided for in the International Covenant. The death penalty may not be imposed on persons under 18, all women and men who turn 65 by the day the verdict is announced,” he said.
He noted that the domestic legislation, and in particular the Constitution, establishes the temporary nature of the use of the death penalty. “Until its abolition, the death penalty can be awarded by the court as an exceptional measure of punishment for certain particularly grave crimes involving intentional deprivation of human life under aggravating circumstances. In view of this provision of the Constitution, our country holds a balanced position on the death penalty in the international arena. For example, when the UN General Assembly considers the resolution on the moratorium on the death penalty we traditionally abstain,” Valentin Rybakov said.
According to him, within the past two cycles of the universal periodic review on human rights, Belarus adopted a set of recommendations regarding the possibility of imposing a moratorium on the death penalty. “At the same time, as is known, the majority of Belarusian citizens voted in favor of keeping the death penalty in the referendum in 1996. Repeated opinion polls, which were held in the country, suggest that the death penalty continues to be differently perceived in the society and still has a majority of supporters. This fact cannot be ignored and will not be, including in the context of the dialogue with our respected European partners,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister added that the opinion of the expert community is of great value. “A wide range of opinion of both supporters and opponents of the death penalty, with which we can get familiar in the course of the conference, will contribute to the key objective of this conference which is to bridge the disagreements and lay the foundation for an open dialogue on the use of the death penalty,” Valentin Rybakov noted.