In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

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When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many r…

Belarus Sticks to Death Penalty Over Europe’s Displeasure

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
More than 400 convicts have been put to death since 1990, rights activists say.

Last October the Belarusian authorities executed a man for the murder of his 9-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son, although the public and the man’s family knew nothing of it.

Not until this month did the news come out, when the man’s mother notified a campaigner against the death penalty, Andrey Poluda, TUT.by reported

Europe’s major transnational organizations denounced the latest execution.

“Once again we stand firm against any death sentence imposed by the Belarusian judiciary and any executions carried out in that country,” Yves Cruchten, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s general rapporteur on the abolition of the death penalty, and Andrea Rigoni, PACE rapporteur on the situation in Belarus, said in an 8 March statement.

Cruchten and Rigoni once again called upon the government to place a moratorium on executions.

Belarus has remained outside the Council of Europe, Europe’s chief human rights watchdog, largely over the organization’s opposition to capital punishment.

The European Union also condemned any use of the death penalty and called on Belarus “to introduce without delay a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition.”

Belarus is the only country in Europe or the Commonwealth of Independent States where the death penalty is still used. Trials in capital cases and executions take place behind a veil of secrecy. Relatives of condemned people are not informed about their executions and the place of burial remains unknown.

Poluda is active in Belarus’s best known rights group, Vesna, a rare open opponent of capital punishment in the country.

In an interview with the publication Belorussky Partizan, Poluda said the authorities keep a lid on information about the conditions for death-row convicts and the executions themselves, and ignore international pressure, such as the UN Human Rights Committee resolution expressing concern about the use of capital punishment “without guarantee of due process.”

In November, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka argued that “the question of the preservation of the death penalty was adopted at a referendum and it cannot be abolished,” the state news agency BelTA reported.

In his interview, Poluda said it was irrelevant to cite the referendum, which took place in 1996. There was no possibility of a life sentence under Belarusian legislation at the time; the maximum term of imprisonment was only 15 years. Besides, “capital punishment is a very emotional issue which should not be resolved by a plebiscite,” he said. The activist believes Lukashenka is afraid that, having touched upon this issue, others which were decided by referendum might be revisited.

The 1996 plebiscite extended Lukashenka’s powers and prolonged his term in office from 1999 to 2001, over opposition from the Belarusian opposition, several European Union countries, and the United States.

“Change is terrifying” for Lukashenka, Poluda said.
  • Women may not be put to death in Belarus, according to Cornell Law School’s capital punishment database.
  • The Belarusian criminal code states that all executions are by "firing squad." In practice, this means a shot fired into the back of the head. “Typically, prisoners are executed within hours or even minutes of learning that their clemency application has been denied,” according to the Cornell project.
  • More than 400 executions have been carried out since 1990, according to Belorussky Partizan, and five men are currently on death row, TUT.by says. The number has fallen sharply since the 1990s. At least 20 prisoners have been put to death since 2007, Cornell estimates.
Source: tol.org, March 23, 2018

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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