Belarusian law enforcement protects without owning

January 16, 2017 12:46
Image: Reuters

In Belarus, the security forces do not benefit from a particular business. Their task is to ensure the state's economic interests, namely to preserve the immutability of the political regime in the country. If Belarusian security forces or their senior officers obtained economic influence in addition to power influence, the existing government system in Belarus would be under a threat.

It is common in the post-Soviet space for security forces to have a share of control over the economy. Senior security officers are often business owners. As a rule, this leads to the abuse of power and amalgamation of economic and security structures.

During his rule, Lukashenka consistently destroyed all power centres, which could challenge his absolute authority. A merger between business and the law enforcement would be a particular threat. In the early 1990s, when this process only started and was semi-criminal, the Belarusian authorities nipped a potential alliance between "the sword and the purse" within the framework of the criminal law.

To date, the main functions of the law enforcement in the Belarusian economy include:

- ensuring the national security (enforcing secrecy, mobilisation readiness, overall security of enterprises)

- ensuring the rule of law in the economy

- controlling finances and assets of state enterprises

- mobilising financial resources for the state in addition to existing taxes and duties (so-called "voluntary" contributions, compensation for damage to the state in criminal cases and the like).

That said, the Belarusian power system is subjected to corruption and abuse of various kinds. However, such criminal activity is only attributable to concrete individuals, rather than being a behavioural standard sanctioned in the highest power echelons.

The most common types of abuse of power by the law enforcement, not related to bribes include:

- granting jobs to relatives

- offering paid services to businesses

- owning businesses (registered to 3rd persons).

Locally, the Belarusian law enforcement, commercial structures, executive and supervisory bodies often link together, creating a system of mutual cover-ups, conspiracy and protection.

In the Belarusian power system, there is only one power centre, which grants powers and resources to other actors. Other state bodies either raise funds and/or implement the decisions of the central political power. Due to severe repressions, the Belarusian security forces or their senior officers are unable to obtain economic influence in addition to power influence, so as that could threaten the existing government system in Belarus.

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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.