While most European countries have abandoned the death penalty in recent decades, Belarus is one of the few countries on the continent where it remains active. Criminals in Belarus receive capital punishment for particularly brutal murders, multiple murders, or for terrorism resulting in loss of life. But following an instance of attempted sabotage of the railroad network, an act intended to obstruct Russian troop supply to Ukraine, the Belarusian Parliament decided on April 28th in favor of an extension of the death penalty for “attempted acts of terrorism.”
The speaker of the lower house, Vladimir Andreychenko, explained this decision by referring to the failed sabotage: “destructive forces are continuing terrorist (and) extremist activity by trying to rock the situation in Belarus, provoking domestic instability and conflicts. Actions are being taken to disable railway equipment and tracks, objects of strategic importance. There can be no justification for the actions of terrorists.”
Already during the protests of summer 2020, the legislature tightened up by frequently interpreting hooliganism as terrorism, especially if it was directed against the government and its representatives. For example, a person who poured red paint over a judge’s car was charged with terrorism.
Peter Stano, lead spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy at the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Belarus (EEAS), sharply criticized the decision in a statement released on April 29th, saying that the amendment of the penal code “gives the possibility for further serious abuse.” According to Stano, 36 political prisoners “have been charged or already condemned to long prison terms under the code’s “terrorism” provisions. Many representatives of the democratic forces and political activists are wanted under “terrorism” charges. Many of the accused are tried in secret, unfair and biased trials, often under fabricated charges and with no legal safeguards. Now they also risk the death penalty.”
David Boos is an organist, documentary filmmaker, and writer for The European Conservative and other publications.