Condemnation of executions in Belarus
The execution of two men convicted of a deadly 2011 metro bomb attack in the Belarusian capital has drawn strong international condemnation.
In a brief item that followed early reports of the judicial killings, state news agency BeITA confirmed Uladzislau Kavalyou and Dzmitry Kanavalau had been executed.
They were killed with a bullet to the back of the head as laid down under Belarusian law.
In November, the two 26-year-old factory workers were sentenced to death for carrying out an attack at the "October" metro station during rush hour in central Minsk which killed 15 people and wounded some 300 more.
The mother of Kavalyou, Lyubou Kavalyova has claimed that her son’s execution was revenge by the government of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Human rights activist Lyudmila Gryaznova condemned the executions, saying that "the execution of the so-called terrorists, whose guilt remains under suspicion, gives the appearance that the government is concealing the traces of the crime."
AP reported that people lay flowers or light candles outside the subway station or outside the Belarusian Embassy in Moscow on March 18 after news of the executions emerged.
Foreign governments and the European Union had urged Belarusian authorities to spare the two mens’ lives, at least until "considerable doubts and questions" could be dispelled.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla, said, "The already heavily burdened relation between Belarus and Europe will be rendered yet more difficult” by the executions.
Markus Loening, the German government’s top human rights official, called Lukashenka "a dictator without heart or mercy."
In Brussels, a spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was "aware of the terrible crimes that these two men were accused of." At the same time, the spokesman added, Ashton noted that the two accused “were not accorded due process, including the right to defend themselves."
The European Union last month toughened sanctions imposed on Belarus over political repression. EU members recalled their ambassadors after Belarus asked the head of the EU delegation in Minsk and the Polish ambassador to leave the country.
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka rejected last week final appeals for clemency in a move condemned by the Council of Europe.
Critics of Belarus’s authoritarian government accused it of staging the bombing to divert attention from the country’s economic crisis.
Belarus is the only country in Europe that continues to practice capital punishment. Rights activists say some 400 people have been executed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Lyubou Kavalyova told RFE/RL on March 16 that she had asked Belarus’s president to stay the execution for at least one year, until her son received a response to his appeal to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights over the death sentence.
Kavalyova later said her son’s execution was revenge by Lukashenka’s government.
"It all led to this, " Kavalyova said. "They thought they could threaten the boys and the boys would keep it quiet. Yes, Dima [Uladzislau Kavalyou] kept it quiet, but my son did not.... They thought they would scare the children and they will be quiet. All their scenario of the investigation and of the court.... They would have executed him back then [in November 2011], but my son did not let them do it. So they got their revenge, against my son and against me."
With RFE/RL, Reuters, AP, and dpa reporting