Belarusian authorities disregard "sensitive" requirements in Bologna Process Roadmap

April 22, 2016 19:36

Last week, the Public Bologna Committee issued a statement, saying that Belarus had stepped up attack on academic freedoms and the rights of the academic community. In response to the recent initiative of the Belarusian State University students against the introduction of fees for retaking exams, the university administration has tightened its internal rules and put pressure on most active participants of the campaign – instead of engaging in a dialogue with the student community. Education is one of the most conservative areas in which the Belarusian authorities are the least prepared to carry out reforms or increase participation of academic and student communities in decision-making. The main reason behind Belarus’ participation in the Bologna process is to enhance attractiveness of Belarusian diplomas for students from the third world countries and to gain additional proceeds from exporting educational services. The authorities are unlikely to implement some of the most ‘sensitive’ requirements from the Roadmap for a full-fledged membership in the Bologna process, i.e. carrying out structural reforms in higher education and changing the situation with the student self-government and academic freedoms.

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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.