The Leader of Europe's 'Last Dictatorship' Is Facing an Unprecedented Challenge. Here's What It Could Mean for Belarus

Europe’s longest serving leader Alexander Lukashenko has long worked hard to seem invincible. He has dominated past elections that the U.S. has deemed neither free nor fair and brokered no dissent and suppressed protests. Now, he is facing an unprecedented challenge as he runs for a sixth term as president of Belarus in elections on August 9. A former teacher and political novice, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has emerged as his main rival, pledging to topple Lukashenko’s regime and restore democracy.
Tens of thousands have rallied across Belarus in some of the country’s biggest opposition protests in a decade, amid mounting frustration over the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, combined with grievances about the economy. Referring to Lukashenko, protestors chanted ‘stop the cockroach’ and held placards reading ‘change!’.
“For the first time in his 26-year rule, Lukashenko knows the majority don’t support him,” says Aleksandr Feduta, a former aide to the incumbent, who was i…

Kim's killing fields: Terrifying map reveals scale of public executions in North Korea

A stark map has revealed the 318 places in North Korea where people have been publicly executed - most commonly for theft or damage to property.

Using testimonies from more than 600 defectors the human rights researchers found executions commonly took place on river banks, fields, market places, hills and mountains, sports and school grounds.

Of the 715 mentions of charges resulting in an execution it was most commonly related to theft or damage to property, including food and livestock (238 times) followed by violent crime (115 times) and political crimes (73 times).

Witnesses also told the Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) - the organisation which undertook the research - that they were often forced to watch the executions.

The size of the assembled crowds at each public execution varying in size from hundreds to thousands - with 4 in 5 of those interviewed saying they had witnessed a public execution in their lifetime - the youngest witness to a public execution was 7.

The findings and testimonies come from a report out this month titled: Mapping the Fate of the Dead; Killings and Burials in North Korea.

It analyses four years of research to present a report into what it described as state-sanctioned killings.

It is an update on a similar report first published in 2017 by the TJWG - a Seoul-based NGO of human rights advocates and researchers from five different countries.

In the 2019 report's executive summary, the authors wrote: 'Extra-judicial killings in state custody have continued under the leadership of Kim Jong-un despite international criticism of the DPRK's application of the death penalty without due process.'

It said almost all of the state-sanctioned killings were carried out by firing squad -often after a brief trial undertaken on the spot.

During the trial, which commonly took place without legal council, a charge was laid sentence given and execution carried out moments later.

While witnesses cited the most common reason for execution was related to property theft or damage, the authors said the lack of due process in North Korea meant it was difficult to know whether the charges laid at trial 'actually match the act committed by the accused'.

Following the executions, the report said, the bodies of those killed were often not returned to family members, nor were their burial sites revealed to the families.

'The inability to access information on the whereabouts of a family member killed by the state, and the impossibility of giving them a proper burial, violates both cultural norms and the 'right to know'.

'The North Korean government's routine killing of its citizens and the denial of the right of family members to give the dead a proper burial has profound effects that last long after the event,' it said.

'For many, grieving for the lost involves remembering scenes of a public execution, or wondering about the fate of a relative or friend sent to a political prison camp.'

From its research the group found 25 reports of sites, most often in remote locations such as mountainsides and ravines, where dead bodies were said to have been disposed of by the state.

7 of these sites are reported to contain more than 2 bodies together.

The researchers hoped the data gathered may one day help 'discover the truth of the injustices committed and to provide families and communities with knowledge about those who have been killed or disappeared by the state'.

It said the data could also be used in the event of an investigation into serious violations of international criminal, human rights and humanitarian law in North Korea.

Source: Mail Online, Corazon Miller, June 24, 2019

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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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