[JURIST] UN human rights experts expressed grave concern [press release] Friday over Belarus’ death penalty practices after reports surfaced that a man was executed while his case was before the UN Human Rights Committee [official website]. Belarus’ actions in killing the man, Sergei Khmelevsky, were in direct opposition with the committee’s order to not carry out the sentence while an investigation was still being conducted. According to the experts the country’s action constitutes a violation of their obligation under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [materials, PDF]. While every other European country has eliminated use of the death penalty, and despite calls from human rights organizations to do the same, Belarus continues to use resort to the death penalty. Among those executed are seven more individuals whose cases were being examined under the ICCPR.
Belarus has faced continued scrutiny over human rights abuses. In August EU officials praised [JURIST report] Belarus’ president for his release of political prisoners. In June UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklos Haraszti warned [JURIST report] that Belarus continues to sentence and imprison political opponents of the government. In March 2014 he called for the country to end its use of the death penalty, reiterating earlier statements [JURIST reports] and citing politically motivated courts and the lack of fair trials. In 2011 former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay suggested a need for UN intervention [JURIST report] in Belarus and demanded the nation free non-violent political prisoners. Although Belarus is an active member of the UN and has ratified many of its human rights policies, Pillay noted a sharp deterioration in human rights since the 2010 disputed re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994.