The death penalty in Belarus is one of the main irritants in relations of Belarus and the EU. How did this happen and what hinders Minsk from meeting the requirements?
In Belarus, criminals are executed for the most heinous and brutal crimes. Since 2007, there were less than five death sentences per year.
However, the very existence of capital punishment distinguishes Belarus not only from the rest of Europe but also from other post-USSR countries.
The European Union and the Council of Europe don’t neglect a single death sentence in Belarus, usually reacting with the statements of condemnation.
For many European capitals, the death penalty is a dark stain on Belarus’s reputation that seriously hinders the development of mutual relations.
The death penalty doesn’t prevent the EU from building relations with other countries, such as China, Japan, or the bastion of democracy – the United States.
When the argument is brought up in a conversation with Western diplomats, one always hears the same mantra: “this is Europe, and there is no place for the death penalty.”
The EU insists on the moratorium not only because of some European values but also because this concession is politically convenient, it is very easy to record.
It’s not clear how to measure freedom of speech or assembly, while the death penalty – either you have one or you don’t. For the EU, this is an understandable criterion of progress.
Belarus, the EU, and a moratorium
Most often, the government refers to public opinion, particularly to the referendum of 1996, where the majority voters voted in favor of retaining the death penalty.
Truth be told, independent polls also show that Belarusians don’t support the abolition of capital punishment. But since when this was a problem for the authorities?
What’s stopping the government then? There can be two explanations: either Lukashenko is really a staunch supporter of capital punishment or he doesn’t want to sell this concession cheaply.
Some officials familiar with the subject admit that attempts to lobby for a moratorium on the death penalty within the system always rested on the unequivocal refusal of the president.
The second reason – the lack of a counteroffer from the EU – looks more realistic. For moral reasons, the EU cannot simply offer Minsk a bag of money for stopping the executions.
In general, in Brussels, there are neither the means to work with Belarus nor the enthusiasm to buy any concessions. On the upside, since the moratorium on the death penalty is a one-time favor, Minsk doesn’t want to give a trump card for nothing.
Therefore, there are only two ways out. Either the EU should radically reconsider its relations with Belarus and start bargaining for the changes in the country.
Or Minsk should be so eager to get close to Brussels, it will present the moratorium as a gesture of goodwill hoping that the Europeans will appreciate it.
More on the topic:
Enthusiasm for such gestures in our government appears only in one case – when there are some problems on the eastern front, i.e. relations with Russia.
Therefore, if talks about integration with Russia will go nowhere and support will decline, one can suddenly find out that Belarusians no longer want someone to be executed on their behalf.