In the first half of 2021 in Belarus, the number of people convicted of corruption was one-third less compared to the same period in 2020. Such cases are dealt with by the Main Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption. However, Alyaksandr Azarau, a former employee of the agency, believes that this is not an indication of the agency’s success.
According to the former investigator Azarau, when elections started in Belarus in 2020, the agency’s main task was to monitor the election campaign. It all started with a special operation to detain Syarhei Tsikhanouski last May.
“The case was fabricated. They found an agent who was sent to Hrodna. She carried out a provocation on the instructions of the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Tsikhanouski was detained, prosecuted, and arrested. Then the agency started to deal with protests and Babaryka among others. They were tasked with removing leaders who could win the presidential race,” says Azarau.
Azarau says that previously each employee of the agency was dealing with about three cases. Now the department is looking for protesters. There is even a database called “Riot,” which has about 40 thousand people. There are more than fifty Belarusians per law enforcement officer.
“This database contains all those who have been detained for participation in protests, or who have been in criminal or administrative cases. Even if someone has not been detained, but there was some information that they were involved in the activities of any organization or not loyal to the regime, all these people were entered into the database, and now every person is taken in turn and processed,” says a former employee of the agency. “In addition, there’s an array of photos taken during the protests. These are either photos of journalists or real-time footage. With the help of various databases, these photos are used to establish the identities of people to bring them to justice.”
The overload lead to an increased number of agency staff from 500 to 600 after the election. In order to attract and retain police officers, their salaries were raised by 11%. In addition, they often turn a blind eye to the offenses of law enforcement officers.
According to a former investigator, there is now a tacit order not to bother the police. He knows of cases when they were not detained even for crimes. A drunken policeman took away somebody’s phone. After the victim turned to the police, they refused to initiate a criminal case.
“The officer is still employed. In the past it was nonsense, it was impossible,” Azarau says.
Photo by: Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters / Forum