By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
TATARYA VILLAGE, Belarus – A Belarusian laborer who claims that he was tortured into confessing to a murder is facing a looming state execution. Vasily Yusepchuk was convicted on June 29 by the Brest Regional Court for allegedly murdering six elderly woman. The deadline for staying the execution of Yusepchuk passed on Tuesday, as the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko did not grant a pardon to Yusepchuk.
The use of capital punishment has been outlawed in every European nation other than Belarus. And in recent years Belarus has decreased its use of the practice. In 2008 only 4 people were executed by the state and only two so far this year. Critics of Yusepchuk’s conviction, including the Council of Europe, have pointed out that Belarusian judges have been pressured in the past to sentence to death defendants against whom there was questionable evidence.
“We are deeply concerned that Vasily Yusepchuk…may face imminent execution after the Belarus Supreme Court has rejected his appeal against the death penalty.”
The calls from human rights organizations to pardon Yusepchuk comes at the time when the Belarusian President has been attempting to court favor with the west.
Medical experts for Yusepchuk have stated that the confession that Yusepchuk gave to police was a result of torture. Amnesty International has confirmed that Yusepchuk was beaten twice will being detained prior to trial. Additionally, other international human rights organizations have noted that Yusepchuk is illiterate and “under torture…could have confessed to anything.”
Yusepchuk’s mother believes that her son’s conviction came about as a result of his Gypsy ethnicity, also known as Roma.
Growing outcry in the face of the execution has surfaced in a number of European cities. Protesters gathered outside of the Belarus embassy in Moscow on Thursday to protest Yusepchuk upcoming execution, as well as the continued use of the death penalty by Russia’s western neighbor.
For more information, please see:
CBS NEWS – Gypsy Laborer Face Execution In Belarus – 13 October 2009
THE OLYMPIAN – Gypsy laborer faces execution in Belarus – 13 October 2009
WORLD AP – Gypsy laborer faces execution in Belarus – 13 October 2009