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Belarus must release bodies of men executed over Minsk metro bombing

‘The Belarusian authorities must release the bodies to the families’ - John Dalhuisen

The execution of two men convicted of carrying out a deadly metro bombing last year in Minsk has been condemned by Amnesty International as it called on the Belarus authorities to release the bodies to their families for burial.

Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzslau Kavalyou were sentenced to death on 30 November after being found guilty of a bomb attack that killed 15 people and wounded more than 300 last April. The trial has been widely criticised for failing to meet international fair trial standards. The two men's sentences were passed by the Supreme Court of Belarus, leaving no possibility of appeal to a higher court.

Dzmitry Kanavalau was found guilty of committing terrorist attacks and producing explosives in connection with a series of bomb attacks, most recently the one in Minsk, while Uladzslau Kavalyou was found guilty of assisting him and failing to inform the authorities.

However, there was no forensic evidence linking either man to the explosion and no traces of explosives were found on them. Experts concluded that it would not have been possible for them to prepare the explosives in the basement they’re alleged to have used. Kavalyou's mother Lubou has said that both men were beaten during interrogation and she believes the speed with which the executions were carried out is revenge for her campaign for her son.

The exact date of the executions is not known, but on Saturday Lubou Kavalyou received a Supreme Court letter dated 16 March saying her son had been executed. The executions have also been confirmed by state-owned media. Kavalyou’s execution took place despite an official request from the UN Human Rights Committee not to execute until his application to the committee had been considered.

In Belarus, the bodies of those executed are not released to the family and the place of burial is kept secret, causing further distress to relatives.

Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen said:

“Despite publicly stating its intention to abolish the death penalty, the Belarusian government continues to issue death sentences and execute prisoners.

“President Alexander Lukashenko should establish an immediate moratorium on the death penalty, in line with successive UN General Assembly resolutions calling for a global moratorium.

“The Belarusian authorities must also release the bodies to the families of the two men.”

Lubou Kavalyoua, who is campaigning for a moratorium on the death penalty in Belarus, last saw her son when she visited him in a remand prison in Minsk on 11 March. The two men were denied clemency by President Lukashenko on 14 March. The letter sent to Lubou Kavalyoua is unusual in Belarus. In the past, official notification that an execution has been carried out has been sent to the relatives only weeks or months afterwards.  In 2003 the UN Human Rights Committee ruled in the cases of two other executed prisoners that the secrecy surrounding the death penalty in Belarus punished the families and amounted to inhuman treatment.

Kavalyou’s sister Tanya has told Amnesty that security forces have attempted to prevent any demonstrations of grief near the apartment block where the family lives in Vitebsk in north-east Belarus, including the laying of flowers and lighting of candles. Nevertheless, around 30 people left candles in the entrance to the building.


Belarus is the last country in Europe and the former Soviet Union which still carries out executions.

Condemned prisoners are given no warning that they are about to be executed, and they are usually executed within minutes of being told that their appeal for clemency has been rejected.

They are first taken to a room where, in the presence of the director of the detention facility, the prosecutor and one other Ministry of Interior employee, they are told that their appeal for clemency has been turned down and that the sentence will be carried out.

They are then taken to a neighbouring room where they are forced to their knees and shot in the back of the head.

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