Amnesty International has called on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to pass an immediate moratorium on the death penalty after it became known that two men were executed in Minsk last week.
According to a document published on Monday by Amnesty International, Europe was an "execution-free zone" in 2009 with no capital punishment carried out within the continent. The organization said it was "very disappointing" that Belarusian authorities had executed two prisoners on Friday, against the world opinion of abolishing the death penalty.
"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment. It violates the right to life and should be abolished," Halya Gowan, Europe and Central Asia Program Director, was quoted in the report as saying.
Andrei Zhuk and Vasily Yuzepchuk were both sentenced to death in 2009 for separate crimes but had been sharing a death row cell in the capital Minsk. Zhuk's mother told Amnesty International on Monday she was informed by prison staff that both men had been shot.
Yuzepchuk was sentenced to death on 29 June 2009, for the murder of six elderly women. His lawyer argued investigations were fundamentally flawed and that Yuzepchuk was beaten to force him to confess to the crimes.
Zhuk was sentenced to death on 22 July 2009, for the armed assault on and murder of a man and woman in February 2009. His father was taken to hospital on Monday having suffered a heart attack after hearing the news of the execution.
"Andrei Zhuk and Vasily Yuzepchuk were executed without being granted a last meeting with their relatives. The authorities must give their bodies and belongings to their relatives, should they wish to receive them. If they refuse to hand over the bodies, they must at least inform the relatives where their loved ones were buried," Gowan said.
The death sentences of Zhuk and Yuzepchuk were passed shortly after the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted to restore Special Guest Status to the Belarusian Parliament, on the condition that Belarus declare a moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty.
MOSCOW, March 22 (RIA Novosti)