Help stop a terrible miscarriage of justice in Belarus!
Belarusian human rights defenders have spoken out against the call from the State Prosecutor to execute the two young men accused of the Minsk metro bombing last year: Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou. In an appeal issued today, aimed at a Belarusian audience, they explain all the arguments against the death penalty. These do not need to be elaborated (we hope!), except for one: NO justice system is infallible and there are no grounds for optimism about the young men’s chances for a fair trial in Belarus.
The Viasna Human Rights Centre states that according to the reports by defence lawyers, human rights defenders, and many others, the investigation into the Minsk metro explosion, as well as the entire trial of Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou, was neither professional nor convincing..
Observers report serious procedural violations during the pre-trial investigation and the court examination. The defendants’ right to legal defence was seriously restricted, and the young men’s allegations of physical and psychological pressure during the pre-trial investigation were never properly examined. Numerous motions by the defence lawyers, aimed at clearing up the irregularities and contradictions of the presented evidence, were groundlessly dismissed.
During the trial, a number of victims expressed their doubt as to Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou’s involvement in the terrorist act. Tens of thousands of Belarusians have signed the petition asking that the defendants in the case not face the death penalty.
If you have not yet signed the petition below, please do so –international attention can help!
PLEASE sign and circulate the following appeal against the possible execution of two young men in Belarus who are accused of the Minsk bombing. They are being tried in a country without an independent judiciary, prosecutor, Security Service or police force
Belarus: Stop murder – in the name of the people!
The Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty are calling upon everyone to help save human lives by signing theonline petition against the possible execution of Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou*.
The two young men are currently standing trial charged with plotting and carrying out a number of explosions, including the 11 April 2011 Minsk underground blast, which claimed 15 lives.
With the Supreme Court due to pass sentence on 30 November, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Vice-Chair of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and co-founder of the campaign against the death penalty, has issued the following urgent appeal to the people of Belarus:
“It may seem that justice is ready to “conquer” again. It is in the execution of people who themselves committed murder, that many see restoration of justice. A high-profile crime is solved, the criminals are caught and convicted, the law enforcers and prosecution officials receive their ‘stars’ and awards. It may seem that all is as it should be ...
However, there is a strange metamorphosis within society. It was this terrible tragedy that perhaps for the first time highlighted the issue of capital punishment, forced people to think about it. The public do not believe in Kanavalau and Kavaliou’s guilt and have launched a petition to protect them from execution. This is the first time such a popular initiative is being launched in Belarus. It belongs to the people, it is not the initiative of some human rights organizations, which for several years have consistently stressed the need to abolish the death penalty or, at least, to declare a moratorium on it.
One of the main arguments against the death penalty in Belarus (or for declaring a moratorium on its implementation) for me personally is the lack of an independent judiciary in the country, the extreme dependence and powerlessness of lawyers, the complete lack of public control over the activities of the Security Service, police and prison system. Under these conditions, the application of the death penalty raises the possibility of a forced, torture-related, self-inculpation, a miscarriage of justice and as a result a death sentence to an innocent person. It seems to me that the current situation with the case of Kanavalau and Kavaliou is a vivid example to this. The distrust of the results of the investigation seem to be the quintessence of the society’s distrust of the judiciary and law enforcement in general. It is hard to trust the government, whose police and courts make dirty-mouths of citizens who peacefully clap their hands, and the KGB scary people with tales about rats in the pipelines and the military arsenal of the opposition in a garage on the outskirts of Minsk. What is perilous is the intelligence agencies that are engaged in fiction in the spirit of the 1930s – the one who invents the plot, discloses it himself.
We all have once again involuntarily become the viewers of a terrible tragedy, the act of another murder stretched in time – only this time it will be killing in the name of the Republic of Belarus. Then, on behalf of the Republic the families of the executed will not be able to recover the body for burial and will not learn the place of burial. And once again another mother half-mad with grief will scour the neighboring cemetery in search of her son’s fresh unmarked grave. I have seen this over the past 15 years. That’s why I have been fighting, and will keep on fighting for the abolition of the death penalty. Each time as if for the first time, each time ...
Now we, human rights defenders, have deliberately declared a “silent moratorium”, just watching the Kanavalau-Kavaliou trial. We did not want to exert indirect pressure on either the investigation or the judicial process. There was a terrible tragedy, killing innocent people. An investigation was carried out, which was expected to sort it all out, the trial began, which was expected to assess the evidence collected by the investigation. I will not talk about the quality of the evidence against Kavaliou and Kanavalau – this has already been much talked about, including by lawyers. The only thing I want to stress: one of the fundamental questions are the motives for committing the crime. I have not yet heard a single sound response to this I do not take into account the unintelligible and formal “destabilizing the political situation in Belarus”.
Now, when the state is ready to once again implement its “act of justice”, this “silent moratorium” has come to an end. We, activists of the “Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty” campaign are starting a series of active steps to prevent the killings. I understand that even the interim measures of relief by the UN Human Rights Committee cannot stop the conveyor belt of death. But together we now have a chance to stop it forever. Because people should not be killed, because human life is of supreme value – including tin the Republic of Belarus."
* if transliterated from Russian, the two men are known as Dmitri Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov,