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EU Urges Belarus To Spare Two On Death Row


The Minsk city court sentenced Vyachaslau Sukharka and Alyaksandr Zhylnikau to death on January 20 after a retrial.

The European Union has sharply criticized Belarus for sentencing two men to death, and repeated its call for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's government to abolish capital punishment.

Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, said on January 23 that the Minsk city court sentenced Vyachaslau Sukharka and Alyaksandr Zhylnikau to death on January 20 after a retrial.

In December 2015, Sukharka and Zhylnikau were convicted of murdering three people and sentenced to life in prison. But in July 2017, the Supreme Court upheld an appeal by the prosecutor and the case was sent for retrial.

"The European Union holds a strong and principled position against the death penalty, which is a cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment and a violation of the right to life," Kocijancic said in a statement.

"The death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to crime, and errors, inevitable in any legal system, become irreversible."

"We expect the remaining death sentences in Belarus, which is the only country in Europe still applying capital punishment, to be commuted and a moratorium on the death penalty introduced as a first step towards its abolition," the statement said.

The EU and rights groups have urged Belarus to join a global moratorium on the death penalty for years.

According to rights organizations, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since it gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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