Four trade union leaders were detained in August and were considered to be possible prisoners of conscience. A number of detainees were reportedly ill-treated. At least two death sentences and one execution were reported, but the true figures were believed to be much higher. There was continuing tension during the year between President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and parliament over the division of constitutional powers. Following industrial unrest, President Lukashenka issued a decree banning the activities of the independent Belarussian Free Trade Union and stripping elected officials of their immunity from prosecution. Although the draft new criminal code had still not been approved by the end of the year (see Amnesty International Report 1995), the Ministry of Justice confirmed that homosexual acts between consenting adult males had been decriminalized by a separate amendment in March 1994. In August, four trade union leaders – Sergey Antonchyk, a member of parliament, Genadz Bykov, Mikalay Kanakh and Uladzimir Makarchuk – were detained by police during a peaceful strike on the Minsk metropolitan railway. They were held for several days during which their families were not informed of their whereabouts. Sergey Antonchyk was reportedly released on 23 August. The other three were reported to have been sentenced to between 10 and 15 days' administrative arrest for "organizing an unsanctioned meeting". There were several reports of alleged ill-treatment by law enforcement officials. In April members of omon, a special police unit, allegedly ill-treated a group of opposition parliamentary deputies, who were on hunger-strike, after forcibly evicting them from the parliamentary building. In May at least eight people were briefly detained and allegedly ill-treated for participating in a peaceful anarchist demonstration in the town of Gomel. Among the victims were Valery Loginov, who was reported to have been severely beaten, and a 17-year-old schoolgirl, who claimed that she was beaten and threatened with rape. All the detainees were fined and released. In July special police units were reported to have beaten demonstrators holding a peaceful, unauthorized Independence Day procession. The authorities had refused permission to stage the demonstration on the grounds that it was "politically inexpedient". Between five and 10 people were detained and at least one person, Vladymir Nester, a member of parliament, claimed that he had been beaten by police while in custody. At least two death sentences were passed and at least one person was executed during the year; the true figures were believed to be much higher. In January, Igor Yurevich Kopytin was sentenced to death for murder. His appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court. His petition for clemency to President Lukashenka was still pending at the end of the year. Igor Mirenkov was sentenced to death for premeditated aggravated murder in August by the Svetlogorsk Regional Court. He was still awaiting the outcome of his appeal at the end of the year. Sergey Kutyavin (see Amnesty International Report 1995) was executed in January, after President Lukashenka turned down a request for clemency. Sergey Kutyavin's parents were not informed in advance of the execution and were not told where his body had been buried. Amnesty International called on the government to clarify the whereabouts of the four trade union leaders and to investigate allegations of ill-treatment in custody. Amnesty International called on the President to commute the death sentences passed on Igor Mirenkov and Igor Kopytin and continued to urge total abolition of the death penalty and the publication of full statistics on the death penalty.

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