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UN rights expert calls for moratorium on Belarus capital punishment

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklos Haraszti [official profile] called [press release] Friday for Belarus, currently the only European nation that has retained the death penalty, to end the practice. The statement was issued following the reported execution of Pavel Sialiun who was put to death at an unknown date without notification of his family while his complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee [official website] was still pending. "It is unacceptable that Belarusians must live in the fear that non transparent and politically-guided courts hand down death penalty sentences at the end of a procedure without guarantees of a fair trial or the right to appeal to international bodies," Haraszti said, calling for an immediate moratorium on death sentences until capital punishment could be removed from the country's Criminal Code. Belarusian courts sentenced four people to death last year.

The death penalty is controversial in the US and abroad. Earlier this month the Supreme Court of Oklahoma [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that inmates' constitutional rights were not violated by keeping secret the sources of lethal injection drugs. Also in April the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] urged [JURIST report] Somali authorities to place a moratorium on the death penalty. In January the Iraq Ministry of Justice [official website, in Arabic] announced [JURIST report] the hanging executions of 11 prisoners convicted of terrorist activity. Haraszti issued [JURIST report] a similar condemnation of Belarus' capital punishment in October, calling for a moratorium on the practice then as well.

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