Lukashenka enlarges security forces’ powers, relieves them of responsibility for using arms against protesters

Riot police detaining, beating protester on Nyamiha Street in Minsk.
Photo: Alisa Hanchar / Belsat

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has signed the law ‘On the amendment of laws on ensuring national security in the Republic of Belarus’, state-run news agency BelTA reports.

Earlier, the draft project was endorsed by the two chambers of Belarus’ parliament. In accordance with it, certain amendments have been introduced to the laws regulating the operation of law enforcement bodies and paramilitary organisations.

Under the updated laws, police officers and representatives of other uniformed services are not responsible for the damage in case of the application of force, special items, weapons, military and special equipment ‘if such measures are taken within the framework of the legislation regulating the operation of law enforcement bodies’. Moreover, they are authorised to use military and other equipment when there is a need to ‘prevent civil unrest’.

The document also specifies regulations for the personal inspection of individuals, their possessions and vehicles, e.g. it is now possible to conduct such inspections during arrest, BelTa stresses. When the amendments come into force (it is to happen in a month after their being officially published), the uniformed services will be allowed to bar citizens from ‘recording investigative actions; measures taken to ensure civil order, personal and public security’ the environment, including persons in discharge of their functions’.

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In fact, pro-Lukashenka forces repeatedly resorted to the above-mentioned practices before, but from now on, they have ‘legal’ grounds for such actions. What is more, there are at least seven deaths linked to post-election protests in 2020 (Raman Bandarenka, Alyaksandr Taraykouski, Henadz Shutau, Mikita Kryutsou, Alyaksandr Vikhor, Kanstantsin Shyshmakou, Artsyom Parukou). It should be noted that captain Raman Haurylau and warrant officer Arseny Halitsyn who serve in military unit Nr 89417 (special operations forces) in the town of Maryina Horka were involved in the murder of Henadz Shutau in Brest on August, 11. However, the court recognised them as victims while the deceased Shutau and witness Alyaksandr Kardzyukou were found guilty.

On 9 August, numerous protest rallies started throughout Belarus on the back of announcing the preliminary results of the 2020 presidential election; the major demands of Belarusians were Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s resignation; holding a free and fair election; releasing political prisoners; putting an end to police violence as well as bringing to justice those involved in battering and torturing peaceful demonstrators. As of 17 May, 377 persons have been recognised as political prisoners by the Belarusian human rights community. According to the Amnesty International organisation, the Belarusian authorities admitted receiving some 900 complaints of abuse by police in connection with the protests, but by the end of the year not a single criminal investigation had been opened, nor had any law enforcement officer been charged with respective violations.

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2021.03.24 07:00, following BelTA