AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: BELARUS EXECUTIONS UNDERLINE THE NEED FOR MORE EU ACTION
March 30, 2010: Amnesty International is urging the EU to strongly and publicly condemn the two executions in Belarus from earlier this month.
In a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the human rights watchdog called on her to condemn the Belarussian executions, in which two men were shot, and to step up the campaign for an international moratorium on the death penalty.
"The death penalty has not been mentioned on a regular basis in high-level [EU] political statements and the deafening silence after the executions in Belarus has made the issue of the death penalty look even less like a priority," said Nicolas Beger, the director of Amnesty International's EU office.
The group said that hoped Ms Ashton would make abolition of the death penalty one of "top priorities" of the External Action Service, the EU's new diplomatic corps.
The high representative's office had put out a policy statement on Belarus, expressing "grave concern" at the harassment of journalists, NGOs and opposition groups. The statement also said the EU "deplores" the execution of the two men.
However, Amnesty's David Nicholls, the group's officer dealing with EU foreign policy, told EUobserver that the wording was "buried amid a very broad statement in the third paragraph, on the second page."
"We are very worried about the way the EU at the moment is dealing with cases like this, when Brussels used to be much stronger. The statement didn't even mention the two men by name."
"It's clear there is an institutional confusion at the moment and in many cases leading to inaction at both the EU level and in [foreign] delegations," he said. (Sources: EuObserver, AI, 30/03/2010)