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EU, Rights Groups Condemn Executions Of At Least Two In Belarus

  • RFE/RL

According to rights groups, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since the early 1990s.

According to rights groups, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since the early 1990s.

The European Union has condemned the executions of two convicts in Belarus.

Relatives of Ivan Kulesh, 28, and Syarhey Khmyaleuski, 31, say they have been informed that the two men were executed in November.

In a November 30 statement, a spokesperson for the EU's diplomatic service, said that Minsk's "continued application of the death penalty runs counter to Belarus's stated willingness to engage with the international community, including the EU."

Kulesh was sentenced to death in November 2015 after a court found him guilty of three murders, theft, robbery, and attempted murder.

Khmyaleuski was convicted of three murders and sentenced to death in January.

Amnesty International's campaigner on Belarus, Aisha Jung, said on November 30 that the "sudden and shameful purge" of death-row prisoners in Belarus was "additionally shameful" because executions there "are typically shrouded in secrecy and carried out at a moment's notice."

Amnesty International said it fears that a third death-row inmate, Hyanadz Yakavitski, may also have been executed since November 5.

It also quoted rights activists in Minsk who said the executions were carried out with gunshots to the back of the prisoners' heads.

Jung said the "sudden spike in executions is especially surprising in Belarus, the death penalty's final frontier in Europe, since many believed the country was on track to eliminate capital punishment for good."

Jung noted that the sudden string of executions in Belarus came after a hiatus.

Before this month, only one person had been executed in the former Soviet republic since November 2014 -- Syarhey Ivanou, who was executed on April 18, 2016.

The EU, Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations have been calling on Minsk to join a moratorium on the death penalty for years.

According to rights groups, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since the early 1990s.

With reporting by Spring96.org
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