A world of pain: executions in Minsk, in Gaza … in Florida?

Last week I blogged about some grotesque public executions in Iran – “bus hangings” – where three men were put on buses and then hanged from a road bridge.

This week it’s a (no-less grotesque) execution in Belarus, two in Gaza and – potentially – one in Florida, USA. Capital punishment is itself dying out globally and historically, but its death throes are still in evidence around the world  …

If you’re thinking you’ve not heard much news about these executions, that’s partly because that’s how the authorities tend to like it. Minimum publicity, maximum secrecy. (Iran’s public executions may seem the opposite to this, but try getting proper data from the authorities over how many people it judicially kills each year …).

In Belarus everything about executions is shrouded in secrecy. News about this latest death is barely filtering out. Amnesty issued a statement last night confirming the execution of one man – 28-year-old Andrei Burdyka – while another has been named in one media report (which carried a condemnation by the EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton).

People who commit awful crimes deserve to be punished, but is a hole-in-the-wall-type state killing really the answer? In this case Andrei’s mother went to the prison on Monday hoping to visit him on death row only to be told he’d already been shot. The guards handed over his clothes and his glasses, but not his body. This will not be given to family and instead will be buried in secret. Secret killing, secret burial. The method of execution in Belarus is shooting in the back of the head. 

Belarus is the last country in Europe to execute prisoners and you can see why it’s earnt itself “pariah” status for this and other human rights abuses.

Meanwhile the Hamas administration in Gaza – another authority not known for its championing of human rights – has reportedly overseen the execution of two Palestinian men (a father and son, apparently aged 60 and 29). The Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip has not provided the names of the men who were killed, nor the method of execution or circumstances (more secrecy), but claimed in a statement that the two had been found guilty of “collaboration” with Israel.  

Finally, in this (not very uplifting) post … Florida. Next Tuesday the US state is set to execute a man who’s been on death row for a mind-blowing 33 years. Manuel Valle, a Cuban national, was convicted of the murder of a police officer in 1978. He was 27 when he was sent to death row; he’s now 61.

There are big concerns that Valle has never been allowed a proper clemency process (go here for more info and please support Amnesty’s urgent appeal to prevent the execution with an email to Florida’s governor, Rick Scott). Also, is it really acceptable to make a human being endure years and years on death row and then take them out and execute them? One US judge has suggested that “more than a generation spent in death row’s twilight” like this is a cruel double punishment. Valle has, so to speak, already been in the valley of death for half a lifetime. It’s yet another largely hidden dimension to the world of pain and suffering that the death penalty encapsulates.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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