Death penalty report: Belarus executions underline the need for more EU actions

 Amnesty International EU Office Press Release

Death penalty report: Belarus executions underline the need for more EU action

(Brussels 30 March) Amnesty International is urging the EU to strongly and publicly condemn the two executions in Belarus from earlier this month. In a letter to Baroness Ashton, Amnesty International also calls on the EU to take a stronger lead in promoting an immediate moratorium of the death penalty.

Amnesty International’s annual report Death Sentences and Executions 2009 published today, shows that for the first time no one was executed in Europe last year. This important milestone was however overshadowed when two individuals were executed in Belarus around 18 March. The fairness of the trials has been questioned and both had appealed for clemency to President Lukashenka. The official reaction from the EU on these two killings has also been muted.

“Spain has for a long time been a leader in the worldwide abolitionist movement and it was encouraging to see that Madrid made a strong commitment to set the death penalty as a top priority during its EU presidency. Yet, the death penalty has not been mentioned on a regular basis in political statements and the deafening silence after the executions in Belarus has made the issue of the death penalty look even less like a priority.” says Nicolas Beger, the director of Amnesty International’s EU office.

Even if worldwide progress towards ending judicial killings by states has been made, 58 countries still retain capital punishment and 18 of those were known to have carried out executions in 2009. Amnesty International documented at least 714 executions last year but this total doesn’t include figures from the world’s largest executioner, China, which would inflate the real global total significantly.

All EU member states have abolished the death penalty, making the EU a vital global force against its practice. The establishment of the European External Action Service (EEAS) should also guarantee that the EU has the ability to act decisively in all cases of imminent execution but this can only happen if the abolition of the death penalty features as one of the EEAS’ top priorities.

“The EU is a key player in the fight for a global abolition of the death penalty and it is time to really push for more progress. Institutional uncertainties cannot continue to be an excuse for inaction of the EU to achieving a total ban on capital punishment,” concludes Beger.

For further comment/background and interviews:

Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):

Tel: 32-2-5021499/32 -2 – 548 2773

Email: [email protected]