Human Rights House Foundation

Belarus

Image: New bill may cause Belarus to end up in worst period of Soviet totalitarianism

New bill may cause Belarus to end up in worst period of Soviet totalitarianism

Wednesday, 30 November 2005

The human rights activists of Belarus are against the introduction of the political articles in the criminal legislation.  On November 25, 2005 the chamber of representatives of the Belarusian Parliament adopted in the first reading a bill brought by Mr. Lukashenka before the parliament as an emergency measure.

This bill provides for additional clauses and changes to be introduced to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. Thus, in particular, the effective Criminal Code will be amended to include a number of new articles: illegal operations of a public association, fund or involvement with such operations; discrediting the Republic of Belarus and a number of other articles of the same kind. The punishment provided for such actions is imprisonment ranging from 6 months to 5 years. And, this measure introduces in fact censorship of the assessment of the situation in Belarus. KGB Chair Stepan Sukhorenko says that this is the way to “suppress the wave” of the protests the opposition plans to stage during the elections.

The state-owned media claim 70% of the population trust the incumbent president. The Belarusian authorities say confidently that "the opposition cannot rely on any category of the population", continuing to adopt tough preventive counter-revolution measures against dissidents.

The actions of the authorities caused a sharply negative reaction of the Belarusian community. Many human rights activists share the opinion that this bill is quasi-legal and shows that the dictatorship is becoming increasingly scared to lose power. It is directly aimed at preventing the human rights activists from monitoring the situation during the elections and, more than that, informing the people of the violations. And the reason why the amendments were passed so quickly was "that the community and the human rights activists did not have enough time to respond. And also to block the reaction of the international community that could provide an appropriate reaction".

In view of the above, the representatives of the human rights movement of Belarus have made the following statement:

The changes proposed to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus agree neither with the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, nor with the international law in the field of the human rights ratified by the Republic of Belarus. The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Human Rights Declaration and the main principle of OSCE. These changes violate the fundamental principles of the human rights such as freedom of opinion and belief, the freedom to receive and distribute information, the freedom of speech, the freedom of association, etc.

We are deeply convinced that this bill is exclusively repressive and aims to intimidate the country’s people prior to the regular presidential elections. Against the background of the deteriorating situation with human rights, the actual elimination of the independent media, these change to the effective criminal legislation will substantially reinforce the political reprisals, cause Belarus to end up in the worst period of Soviet totalitarianism.

In view of the above we demand that Aliaxandr Lukashenka should recall the changes he proposed to include into the laws, and "the national assembly” should not pass the bill introduced by Lukashenka. We call on the representatives of the Belarusian and international civil community, international organizations to adopt all possible measures of influencing the leadership of the Republic of Belarus so that the proposed politically-motivated repressive bill does not take effect.”

 

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