Civil society says EHU as Belarusian public project is in crisis
Belarusian civil society representatives and students of European Humanities University (Belarusian University in exile in Lithuania) have expressed doubts about the fairness of EHU rector elections, which resulted in American professor David Pollick becoming the new rector. Three Belarusians and three Americans competed for the rector’s position at the EHU. Belarusian civil society and academic community had hoped the EHU would remain a social project, an alternative to the current Belarusian higher education system, and an important player in shaping Belarus’ national identity. The new rector is attempting to relieve tension between management, union workers and EHU students. In particular, he said, that the Belarusian component would be preserved in the EHU, however, had not yet presented a strategy for the university’s further development. Belarusian society representatives have concerns about American professor’s independency and ability to suggest a policy that would resolve internal crisis at the EHU.
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.