Law enforcement agencies reform: MIA shrinking competencies
On August 18th, Presidential Decree No 360 took effect, which envisages increased powers for the Financial Investigations Department of Belarus’ State Control Committee.
Growing economic and political risks force the ruling group to concentrate the state’s power management in the most loyal and controlled agencies. Newly created security agencies which are close to the President have been empowered with greater authority, while the country’s oldest law enforcement agency, the Interior Ministry, is gradually losing its powers.
The Decree No 360 has empowered the SCC FID (Belarus’ Financial Police) with the right to stop or suspend the operations of enterprises if their activities (products, services) pose a threat to national security, or the life and health of the population and the environment (‘national security’ criteria added).
Thus, the FID has received a powerful tool to control Belarusian and foreign businesses operating in Belarus. “National security” provision allows maximizing the use of sanctions.
Empowering the FDI (established in 2001) is a logical development in the law enforcement agencies reform, the most visible outcome of which is consistently stripping the Interior Ministry of its powers. During the past two years the MIA functions have consistently narrowed, while the authority of new agencies under President Lukashenko’s control has increased, in particular, in the area of economic crimes.
In 2011, the Investigative Committee was founded (monopolized anti-corruption investigation), and in 2013, the State Committee for Forensic Examinations was set up (monopolized forensic expertise). In addition, President Lukashenko has repeatedly spoken about the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Interior Ministry reform. As a result, the MIA is gradually being converted into an agency that mainly protects public order and is losing jurisdiction over the fight against corruption and economic crimes.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.