MIL OSI – Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English – Press Release/Statement
Headline: Human rights activist asks Pope to discuss the death penalty with Lukashenka
Andrei Paluda, coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus”, has sent a letter to Pope Francis, asking him to touch upon the issue of capital punishment during his meeting with President Lukashenka.
“Your Holiness, Pope Francis,
I, Andrei Paluda, am an activist of the global abolitionist movement.
My country, the Republic of Belarus, is the last country in Europe and the former Soviet Union, which still uses the death penalty in practice. For many years now, I, together with my colleagues, and other concerned people, activists and volunteers of our campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus”, have been making every possible effort to ensure that this barbaric form of punishment became history on the European continent.
Unfortunately, our efforts alone are not enough. Seeing the personal position of Your Holiness and that of the whole Catholic Church on the issue of the death penalty, I appeal to you for help.
Solving the problem of the death penalty in our country is possible, for example, by imposing a moratorium as a first step towards its complete abolition. And the moratorium depends on the political will of the country’s leaders, first of all, President Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
After a personal meeting with you, which was held in May 2016, President Lukashenka said in an interview that he was “very close ideologically” with you, that you both had “the same principles and views on the world order and development.” That the principles which he holds as the President are “fully consistent with the principles upheld by Pope Francis”. And that on this very basis you had a “very sincere and warm conversation.”
It was with great hope that I took this information, and it was one of the arguments that prompted me to write this appeal. Also, one of the arguments was the information about your visit to Belarus in the near future.
I plucked up courage and I would like to ask you to discuss the question of the death penalty in our country in your conversation with President Lukashenka. I believe that your personal position may help the adoption of a positive decision on this issue, which will not only help our country have a positive image in the world, but will also save the lives of four people sentenced to death, which are currently held on death row.