President is ready to release political prisoners
On 3 June President Lukashenko held a meeting on the activities of the Belarusian courts of the first instance.
The Head of State initiates measures that will visually liberalize the Belarusian judiciary, making it a clear signal to the international community about potential renewal of the damaged relations. For instance, the aforementioned event implies the readiness of Minsk to release political prisoners in exchange for improving relations with the Western institutions and the IMF in particular.
During the meeting a number of statements were made, for instance, about overcoming the Soviet tradition of “prosecutive” nature of sentences, or about the possibility to review the decisions of the Supreme Court, which are final at the moment. Another liberal proposal concerned the introduction of jury trials.
Following the Presidential elections on 19 December 2010 the work of the law enforcement agencies and of the Belarusian judiciary in particular, was a subject to harsh criticism by the international community (they expressed concerns about the process of investigation and trials, sentences to demonstrators). It still is. Minsk had to start somewhere to renew the relationship and the judicial system appealed to the authorities as the safest area for liberal experiments. At least the judiciary is easier to reform compared with the KGB and MIA, or with the electoral system, where reforms are put on hold until the next election in 2012.
An indirect evidence of the willingness of Alexander Lukashenko to release political prisoners was his verbal approval of the sentences handed to post-election protestors. Therefore the President symbolically assumed the responsibility for sentences, alongside with the right to release prisoners early.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.