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The IBA’s response to the situation in Ukraine
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns amendments to the Criminal Code of Belarus that introduces the death penalty for state officials and military personnel convicted of ‘treason to the state’. President Alexander Lukashenko signed the amendments into law on 9 March 2023. The legislative amendments will take effect on 25 March 2023.
Presidential approval of the legislative amendments follows an attack allegedly by Belarusian anti-war partisans on a Russian warplane at a Belarusian airbase on 26 February 2023 amid rising discontent with Belarus’ role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western sanctions and falling incomes.
The lower chamber of the Belarusian Parliament adopted the bill on 7 December 2022. Under the amended Criminal Code, ‘treason to the state’ is broadly defined as espionage, defection to the enemy during war or armed conflict, and issuing state secrets of Belarus or of other states, or other assistance, to a foreign state, international or foreign organisation, or their representatives, aimed at harming the national security of Belarus. The Criminal Code of Belarus already allows for the death penalty for murder, terrorism, and attempted terrorism.
IBAHRI Co-Chair, and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc stated: ‘We strongly condemn the extension of capital punishment to convictions of public officials and military personnel for high treason in Belarus. This development is of extremely high concern given President Lukashenko’s supportive role of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We remind the Belarusian authorities that international human rights law does not permit the use of the death penalty for non-lethal or vaguely defined crimes. Drawing attention to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Belarus is a State Party, under Article 6(2), the death penalty can only be imposed for “the most serious crimes”. The recent amendments to Belarus’ Criminal Code do not meet this requirement.’
In its General Comment No 36 (2018), the United Nations Human Rights Committee stated that crimes not resulting directly and intentionally in death, such as political crimes, can never serve as the basis for the imposition of the death penalty within the framework of Article 6 in the ICCPR. Furthermore, the death penalty cannot be imposed based on ‘vaguely defined criminal provisions, whose application to the convicted individual depend on subjective or discretionary considerations, the application of which is not reasonably foreseeable’.
IBAHRI Co-Chair Mark Stephens CBE commented: ‘Belarus has expanded its application of the death penalty for the second time in less than a year, while many other nations move towards abolition. Amid Belarus’ deteriorating human rights landscape, including the arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and political opponents and lack of judicial independence and fair trial guarantees, the recent amendment to the country’s Criminal Code, though unsurprising, is nonetheless disturbing. We call for Belarus to revisit its legislation in line with its international legal obligations and we urge the introduction of an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to abolition. The IBAHRI reiterates its opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances.’
For further information/interview requests, please send an email to: IBAHRI@int-bar.org
Notes to the Editor
Website page link for this news release:
Short link: tinyurl.com/w7rtx2d9
Full link: www.ibanet.org/Belarus-IBAHRI-condemns-expansion-of-the-death-penalty