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Council of Europe Issues Warning Over Death Penalty

Strasbourg, France, June 28 (RFE/RL) -- The Council of Europe today warned Russia, Ukraine and Latvia that they risk expulsion from the human rights body if they do not immediately halt executions and abolish the death penalty.

In a strongly-worded resolution, the Council's Parliamentary Assembly sitting in Strasbourg, France, condemned the three countries for continuing to carry out executions of criminals.

It condemned them for not living up to commitments they gave the Council upon admission, that they would immediately stop executions and abolish capital punishment.

The Council, which many newly-democratic countries regard as an important signal of their acceptance in the West, said Russia, Ukraine and Latvia could be suspended or even expelled if they continue to carry out executions.

The Council also called on Lithuania to institute a moratorium on executions without delay.

Moldova was singled out for praise for having abolished capital punishment shortly after it joined the Council last year.

During debate on a report which said Russian President Boris Yeltsin has reportedly rejected 46 appeals for pardons from death-row inmates this year, Sergei Kovalev, formerly Yeltsin's advisor on human rights, welcomed the Council's pressure on the Russian government.

What he called the "barbaric habit" of capital punishment, must be ended, he said. But a Ukrainian communist, Boris Oliynik, said the Ukrainian public would not accept abolition of capital punshment because they believe it is a deterrent against crime.