Britain calls on Belarus to retract death verdicts

2nd December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain on Friday pleaded with the Belarus government to commute the death sentences handed out to the two men convicted of the Minsk metro bombing that killed 15 people.

Britain "deplored" the deaths and injuries suffered in the April 11 attack but doubted the legal process by which Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov were tried.

"It is the longstanding policy of the UK to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle," said Foreign Office Minister David Lidington in a statement issued Friday.

"I call on the authorities of Belarus to commute these sentences immediately and to establish a formal moratorium with a view to abolition of the death penalty," he added.

The top court of Belarus on Wednesday ordered the execution by shooting of the two childhood friends convicted of the country's worst post-Soviet attack.

The blast struck the city's busiest metro station just a few buildings away from the offices of authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko in what the officials said was an attempt to shake his 17-year rule.

The diplomatically isolated and economically ravaged nation is the only one in Europe to still conduct executions and Lukashenko has said he wanted to see the two 25-year-old factory workers punished with the full force of the law.

Britain stressed that application of the death penalty was of "particularly grave concern when there are strong doubts as to whether it is being carried out in accordance with international minimum standards".

Human rights groups have questioned the quality of evidence provided during the trial and Britain also expressed concern that the two men "appear to have no right of appeal".

© 2011 AFP

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