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Two Belarusians were executed for murder and fraud with apartments. Contrary to appeal to the UN and complaints from human rights defenders

The mother of one of the convicts learned about what happened only after she came to her son for a date.

Semyon Berezhnoy, sentenced to death in July 2017. Photo Tut.by

On November 27 and 28, relatives of Semyon Berezhnoy and Igor Gershankov received notifications that their death sentence was carried out. They were sentenced to death for the murder of six people and fraud with the apartments of the victims. As follows from the court case materials, from 2009 to 2015, convicts in the group of “black realtors” (four people participated in it) persuaded residents of the Mogilyov region to sell or exchange housing, and then kill them.

At the trial, the defendants claimed that confessions were forcibly extracted from them, and also complained about slander by their accomplices. Despite this, in July 2017, Berezhnoy and Gershankova were sentenced to death, and two other members of the group received 22 and 24 years in prison.

Igor Gershankov, sentenced to death in July 2017. Photo Tut.by

Belarus is the only country in Europe with the death penalty. She is appointed for especially serious crimes, including terrorism, murder, seizure of power, terrorist act, murder of an employee of internal organs or treason. The verdict of the court is carried out through execution: the convict kneels and he is shot at the head with a pistol. As the “Medusa” was told by the former head of the SIZO No. 1 in Minsk, Oleg Alkaev, in rare cases he had to take two or even three shots if the doctor recorded a heartbeat.

It is not known exactly when the execution of Berezhnoy and Gershankov took place – as a rule, death certificates come to relatives after a while (this happens in different ways). They say that the convicted person “departed by sentence”. Because of the delay in delivery on the morning of November 28, Gershankova’s Mother arrived at the SIZO – the family had scheduled a meeting with him the other day, as he had not responded to the letters for a month.

Execution contrary to the request of human rights defenders

In June 2018, the UN Committee on Human Rights registered the appeal of Berezhnoy with a request to suspend the execution of the sentence. Soon the performance was really suspended. This gave human rights defenders time for action, since, according to formal rules, the sentence should not be executed while the appeal to the UN is being considered. However, as noted by the local publication Tut.by, the Belarusian authorities usually do not follow this principle.

The media did not write about the abolition of the suspension of execution of the sentence, so the news about the execution of Berezhnoy and Gershankov turned out to be a surprise for human rights activists. Amnesty International, an international human rights organization, condemned the execution, recalling that several weeks ago, members of the organization spoke with the authorities about the abolition of the death penalty. The European Union also condemned the execution of those who were sentenced, pointing out that capital punishment violates the right to life, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights .

In early November, Anesha Yung , Amnesty International coordinator for Belarus, said that the abolition of the practice of capital punishment depends on the actions of political leaders (Alexander Lukashenko is in favor of retaining the death penalty). She explained that in this case it is impossible to rely on a referendum: “As history shows, the majority of the population are in favor of retaining the death penalty.” Over the past 20 years , over 400 sentenced were shot in Belarus , including four people in 2016 and two in 2017.

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