A court in the Belarusian capital Minsk today handed down death sentences for two men after what Amnesty International said was a flawed trial that fell short of international standards.
The court convicted Dzmitry Kanavalau of producing explosives and committing terrorist attacks, including in Minsk metro system earlier this year. Uladzslau Kavalyou was found guilty for assisting him and failing to inform the authorities.
“We have serious concerns that both Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzslau Kavalyou were ill-treated in order to force them to confess and that this trial does not stand up to international scrutiny,” said John Dalhusien, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director.
“Belarus has a flawed justice system and routinely flouts international fair trial standards, increasing the risk of a miscarriage of justice exists and of executing an innocent person.”
During the trial, Uladzslau Kavalyou retracted his confession which he claims was obtained under pressure. He stated that during the interrogation he heard Dzmitry Kanavalau screaming and assumed that he would also be tortured. His mother claims that both men were beaten during interrogation. There are reports that an ambulance was called during Dzmitry Kanavalau’s interrogation, due to the ill-treatment he had suffered.
Both men were detained on 12 April, the day after an explosion in the Minsk metro killed 15 people and injured hundreds.
The following morning, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka violated their presumption of innocence by declaring that two men who had been detained had confessed to carrying out the attack, as well as previous bomb attacks in Belarus. In fact, Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzslau Kavalyou were not questioned until later that day. There is no forensic evidence linking either man to the explosion, and no traces of explosives were found on them. Numerous experts have refuted the allegations that they prepared explosives in a basement, concluding it would have been impossible to do so.
The trial repeatedly flouted the men’s fundamental rights, including by blocking key witnesses for the defense, and relying on video footage of the men that had been allegedly tampered with.
Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned the use of the death penalty in Belarus. Despite public statements hinting at a moratorium on the practice, Belarusian authorities executed two men in 2010 and at least one man so far this year.
“The death penalty is irrevocable and we oppose its use in all cases. President Lukashenka should immediately declare a moratorium on the death penalty and join the growing ranks of countries that have abandoned this barbaric punishment,” said John Dalhuisen.
“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Belarus remains the only country in Europe and the former Soviet Union which still carries out executions.”