25 Dec 2019 11:08

There will be no death penalty moratorium in Belarus - Lukashenko

MINSK. Dec 25 (Interfax) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said he has no right to declare a death penalty moratorium in Belarus using an executive order.

"There will be no moratorium. I have no such right. The decision was made by referendum, and only a referendum can repeal it," Lukashenko said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio station on Tuesday.

"I see the death penalty as a warning to scumbags; it helps us maintain stability and deal with bandits," he said.

Lukashenko recalled the Special Forces' operation against criminals who were stealing luxury cars on the Moscow-Brest highway and killing the cars' owners in the late 1990s. "I cracked down on them, and not a single bandit was left on the highway within a month. Those bandits came from all over the Soviet Union," he said.

"There were 32 organized criminal groups in Minsk when I became a very young president at the age of 38. I did not know what to do. They were planning to grab assets. You know what the 1990s were called, the wild 1990s. [...] That didn't happen here. Why is that? Because I dealt with those 32 groups in the harshest way possible within two months," Lukashenko said.

He also gave as an example an ongoing criminal case. "The Supreme Court chairman briefed me [on one of the cases] yesterday. [...] Two scumbags, there's no other name for them, as they've been convicted of assault before, killed their teacher. For what? For protecting two of their sister's children. The sister wasn't much, an asocial element. [The dead woman] defended the children and demanded that they be taken from the family. [...] They stabbed and cut her all through the night. They were killing her all night long. She begged, and in the end, they finished her by dawn just the same. How is that?" Lukashenko said.

He said he had mixed feelings about the death penalty.

"Whenever you sign a death sentence, you feel catastrophic. [...] You feel fear, and you are deeply disturbed because you realize that a person will be killed on you signature," Lukashenko said, adding that he always asks for the case materials before making a decision.

"If there is the slightest clue or suspicion," for instance, if the defendants plead not guilty, Belarus has such a penalty as life in prison, Lukashenko said. He thinks, though, that life in prison "is a much worse ordeal, considering that such people are caged like animals."

Belarus remains the only country in Europe and the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] to maintain the death penalty, which is intended as an exceptional measure of punishment for especially grave crimes, in accordance with the Constitution. Executions are carried out by firing squad.

Two death sentences were handed down, and four previous sentences carried out in Belarus in 2018. There have been three death sentences handed down and three executions this year.

The EU, the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe], and a number of international organizations have condemned the death penalty in Belarus.