The Belarusian regime legalises repressive practices
Contrary to claims that the situation in Belarus has stabilised, the actions of the regime suggest that their control remains very fragile.
On March 18, 2021, Lukashenka chaired a meeting to discuss changes in security legislation. The authorities plan to promptly enact a dozen new bills to prevent a new wave of protest activity.
In reality, under the pretext of combating extremism, we are looking at a further attack by the regime on Belarusian civil rights. The proposals will:
- criminalise the dissemination of false information about the situation in Belarus, including civil rights and the authorities’ activities, along with anything interpreted as a call to violate the country’s territorial integrity
- criminalise repeat violations of the official procedures for approving mass events
- expand the definition of criminal extremism and increase penalties for resisting the authorities or publicly insulting their family members
- increase criminal penalties for collecting or disseminating personal data or information about the private lives of representatives of the regime, its supporters, and their relatives
- expand culpability for extremist acts to include membership of a group characterised by the regime as extremist, financing extremist activities, and training people to participate in such activities
- the designation of groups as extremist will be expedited by the Courts
- the Interior Ministry will maintain lists of organisations, groups, individual entrepreneurs and citizens involved in extremist activities. Foreigners on this list will be banned from entering the country, and naturalised citizens may be deprived of their acquired citizenship
- those convicted of extremism will be subject to control orders restricting their activities and financial transactions
- access to Internet resources disseminating information the regime interprets as contrary to the “national interests of Belarus” may be restricted by prosecutors. That is to say, to almost any information inconvenient to the authorities
- proposed amendments to the Labour Code will prohibit making political demands during a strike.
Besides, the meeting also considered strengthened control over the bar.
The rushed introduction of a new package of legislation designed to legalise repressive practices is a sign of the regime’s lack of confidence in the stability of the situation. Holding this meeting, a week before the traditional mass rally of Lukashenka’s opponents on Freedom Day on March 25, is an attempt to intimidate and apply pressure on dissenters. Lukashenka evidently anticipates new waves of political activity in Belarus. Preventing this is essential because of the ruling regime’s shrinking support base and upcoming political events such as constitutional reform (which can trigger a new early electoral cycle) against the background of a sharp deterioration in the country’s socio-economic situation.