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Belarus under fire for death penalty

Oct. 9, 2013 at 10:11 AM

GENEVA, Switzerland, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- People in Belarus are forced to live in a climate of fear because "politically-guided" courts are handing down the death sentence, a U.N. special envoy said.

Miklos Haraszti, U.N. special envoy in the human rights situation in Belarus, said Wednesday he was frustrated by the justice system in the country.

"I am deeply disappointed regarding the rulings of Belarusian courts which continue to hand down death sentences to the country's citizens," he said in a statement.

Five executions were carried out in Belarus and three death sentences were upheld for men convicted on murder charges this year. The rights envoy said Belarus was the only European country that still retains a death penalty.

Human rights groups have been critical of the government in Belarus, which has been accused of silencing its critics. Haraszti said there was a general lack of transparency in the country's justice system, which made its record on capital punishment troubling.

"It is unacceptable that Belarusians must live in the fear that non transparent and politically-guided courts hand down death penalty sentences at the end of a procedure without guarantees of a fair trial or the right to appeal to international bodies," he said.

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