Special services of Belarus expand their powers

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April 22, 2016 17:48

Tightening of the Belarusian legislation is, in the first place, a sign of interdepartmental struggle for growing scanty state budget. Even if adopted by the Parliament, these amendments will have little effect on the activities of the opposition and civil society.

Draft amendments to the Law governing the KGB, submitted to the House of Representatives by the Council of Ministers significantly expand the powers of the Belarusian security services.

Comment

Tightening of the Belarusian legislation is, in the first place, a sign of interdepartmental struggle for growing scanty state budget. Even if adopted by the Parliament, these amendments will have little effect on the activities of the opposition and civil society.

The initiators of the amendments envisaged to increase public funding of the security agencies, namely, the KGB, the State Control Committee, the Presidential Security Service, etc. The bill indicates the intensification of the fight for financial resources within the government. These amendments have been initiated concurrently with the review of the draft budget for 2012, which is being debated by the government at the moment and must be adopted in November 2011.

These amendments have been initiated concurrently with the review of the draft budget for 2012, which is being debated by the government at the moment and must be adopted in November 2011.

Contrary to popular interpretation, the main purpose of this bill is not to intensify political repressions. First of all, the Belarusian authorities already have a wide range of legal powers to put pressure on the opposition and civil society activists. Secondly, the most stringent and effective repressions the authorities traditionally implemented by semi-legal or illegal means, as it was during a series of detentions and searches of politicians and journalists last winter and in summer during the street flash mobs dispersed by plain clothes law enforcement officers.

The criticism about the accountability of intelligence agencies for their actions under the new law is fairly reasonable (see reference below). However, this part of the draft law mainly repeats the provisions of the Belarusian Law “On the Internal Affairs” of 2007. Therefore the proposed draft law was meant to balance out the powers of the law enforcement agencies, for instance, the KGB and the Ministry of Interior, rather than give the intelligence services repressive super powers.

Therefore, the most logical explanation of the reasons behind the draft law is not the reinforcement of the repressions against the opposition, rather the reinforcement of the intelligence services’ position vis-?-vis the Ministry of Interior, while preparing for the fight for funding in 2012.

Therefore the proposed draft law was meant to balance out the powers of the law enforcement agencies, for instance, the KGB and the Ministry of Interior, rather than give the intelligence services repressive super powers.

Moreover, the amendments would also be used as a stake in negotiations between the Belarusian authorities and the West. By increasing the atmosphere of repression, the Belarusian authorities draw attention of the EU and the USA and use it as leverage. The authorities imply that if rapprochement takes place, the political regime could be loosened, for instance, the Parliament will not adopt the amendments. The situation is similar to the one with political hostages of the Belarusian authorities.

Reference

Amendments to the Law of Belarus “On State Security Agencies of the Republic of Belarus” stipulate that KGB officers would have the right to “freely” break at any time of day or night into people`s homes and other premises, excluding the premises of foreign diplomatic missions and international organizations enjoying diplomatic immunity, as well as the residence of their personnel, while “pursuing a suspected criminal or having sufficient grounds for assuming that a crime has been or is being committed or a person is hiding from criminal justice authorities on the premises.”

The bill would allow KGB officers to use “physical force, including martial arts and impromptu means,” while preventing a crime or arresting a suspect.  KGB officers would not bear any responsibility for any harm done as a result of the use of physical force, special means, and combat and special equipment if they acted in “justified professional risk” situations or under the conditions of extreme necessity.

 

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