Belarusian authorities supportive of security forces in opposition to public pressure

November 07, 2016 10:00
Image: Aliaksandr Vasiukovich, TUT.BY

The Belarusian Interior Ministry has responded to the criticism by "some human rights defenders" about illegal actions by law enforcement employees. Recently, there was an increase in reports in the independent media about illegal actions or abuse of duty by law enforcement officers against citizens. Nevertheless, independent polls by IISEPS and MIA own polls show people’s satisfaction with the law enforcement activity aiming to protect public order and the rights and legitimate interests of citizens. The law enforcement refers to such polls when denies the existence of significant deficiencies in the law enforcement system. The Belarusian government regards the security forces as the main instrument in protecting state interests and ensuring social and political stability, which suppresses changes in the law enforcement system and its greater openness to society. In addition, the authorities send a signal of support to lower and mid-level law enforcement officers, even if they exceed their power amid political liberalization and a more tolerant attitude to public criticism.

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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.