The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has condemned amendments to Belarus’s criminal code that it believes will expand the application of the death penalty in the country.
According to IBAHRI, the legislative amendments followed a series of acts of alleged sabotage on the Belarusian railway system aimed at obstructing supplies to Russian forces in Ukraine.
The main amendment relates to the code’s article 67, which had prohibited the death penalty for the preparation of, or an attempt to, commit a crime.
The human-rights group says that, after the amendment, the article allows the imposition of the death penalty for an attempt to commit a number of terrorism-related crimes.
‘Vaguely defined’ crimes
Anne Ramberg (IBAHRI co-chair) said that the organisation “strongly condemn” the amendments, adding that international human-rights law did not allow the death penalty to be used for non-lethal or vaguely defined crimes.
“The Belarusian Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (Committee for State Security) includes lawyers and political prisoners on its terrorist list, and the criminal justice system is marred by unfair trials, forced confessions, and secret executions,” Ramberg stated.
“We are therefore deeply concerned that the amendments may be used as a pretext to further intimidate, repress, and punish political opponents and those that represent them, activists against the war in Ukraine, and Belarus’s civil society,” she concluded.
IBAHRI says that, since 2020, the Belarusian government has labelled scores of individuals as terrorists on political grounds – including opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.