Authorities send signal to Belarusian society that repressive policies remain unchanged

April 22, 2016 18:53

Professor Ostrovsky, the only professor teaching in Belarusian, a well-known intellectual and critic of the current state policy, has been sacked from Grodno Medical University.

Regardless of political prisoner Bialiatski’s release as a gesture within the defrosting process of Belarus-EU relations, the Belarusian authorities do not appear eager to relax the domestic political climate. Quite the opposite, they are sending a signal to Belarusian society that the level of repressions against opposition activists will persist. This case is not unique – during the past six month, there were a few other cases of persecution for political reasons, a trend that is traditionally linked to political campaigns. Regardless of how Belarus-EU relations develop, including the release of other political prisoners, pressure on opposition activists during the presidential campaign will increase.

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Death penalty discussion in Belarus: yet not ready for either abolition or moratorium
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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.