Amid loyalty of senior management security forces become less sensitive to public criticism

January 09, 2017 10:07
www.nn.by

Increased police savagery and incidents with the participation of security officials could imply that the law enforcement system is growing out of balance. The law enforcement agencies have become less sensitive to public criticism and public opinion, which, apparently, is due to the support from the Belarusian leadership. Amid growing tension in Belarusian society, the authorities lack the resources and political will to reform the law enforcement in order to improve their public image.

A man, shot twice by a policeman on January 1st, 2016, in Minsk, was detained.

Amid reduced repressions against ‘titular’ opposition, according to media reports, the law enforcement representatives have become more violent in relation to ordinary citizens. The law enforcement stopped the clamp down on unauthorised opposition activity and repressions against party activists. Meanwhile, demonstratively tough actions by some law enforcement officials in relation to ordinary citizens keep the human rights community and society as a whole, tense.

The role and political weight of the law enforcement in the Belarusian society has increased as the state has fewer resources to buy the loyalty of the population due to the lingering social and economic crisis. This may lead to an increase in conflicts between the law enforcement and citizens, which was typical of the 1990s when public and state institutions were weak.

That said, yet some time ago, the authorities have restricted opportunities to measure the confidence level in the law enforcement authorities by destroying independent sociology. Apparently, amid falling well-being of the population and growing tension in society, the authorities are willing to sacrifice some trust in the law enforcement bodies.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to perceive a possible criticism in the media of the security forces’ actions against citizens as an information attack on public institutions.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.