Statement in connection with the creation of a “commission on return to Belarus”

Statement in connection with the creation of a “commission on return to Belarus”

We, the union of thirty three democratic youth organizations of Belarus, being created to consolidate youth organizations and initiatives of Belarus for representation, promotion, and defending common interests, exercising the right to freedoms of association and other constitutional rights, represented by the Governing Body – the Board of “RADA,” make the following statement:

Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree “On Consideration of Applications of Citizens of the Republic of Belarus Abroad for Committing Crimes”, according to which a commission was created to consider the applications of Belarusians who left the country and who fear persecution upon their return to Belarus.

According to the decree, Belarusians who have emigrated abroad and are willing to return to the country if, during the period from January 1, 2020 and until the entry into force of the decree, they have committed “administrative offenses or crimes related to significant social and political events” in Belarus, may apply to the Commission. The Commission is also proposed to address those afraid to return to Belarus “due to their possible involvement in the commission of such offenses”.

According to the decree, Belarusians, who have applied to the Commission, must notify it of their readiness to comply with the Constitution , laws, “to respect state symbols and traditions,” and “consciously and actively perform their civic duty” upon their return to Belarus. In addition, in a letter, they must inform about “sincere repentance for what they have committed, and readiness to publicly apologize” and make amends.

It is vital to note that the decisions made by the Commission are of an advisory nature, which means that if the Commission “considers it appropriate” to revoke the chosen preventive measure or to stop the prosecution, this does not guarantee that the repressive state bodies will execute this decision. There is also no guarantee that a new prosecution will not be initiated in the future, including based on the information provided in the appeal.

The list of the Commission’s members deserves particular attention – there are no opposition political parties, no democratic bodies of civil society; instead, the Commission includes the most prominent propagandists, the head of the Ice Hockey Federation and other individuals whose main “merit” is their loyalty to the Lukashenko regime.

In this regard, we consider the fact of the creation of this Commission to be yet another attempt by the illegitimate political regime to exert propaganda pressure on the citizens of Belarus living in the country and abroad. Instead, we would like to see genuinely effective actions to organize a public dialogue and find a way out of the current socio-political crisis, for instance, the release of all political prisoners. We remind that politically motivated persecution is unacceptable under the Constitution and International Acts signed by the Republic of Belarus. At the moment, there are 1439 political prisoners in Belarus, including the former members of the RADA Board.

We furthermore:

  • Urge all young Belarusians who are fearful of returning to Belarus not to trust the regime, and if they decide to apply to the Commission and return to Belarus, to be aware of all the risks. Any information provided in the appeal can be further used against the appellant by the repressive apparatus.
  • Extend a call to European Union and other democratic countries to show solidarity and render support to Belarusians through economic and political pressure on the regime, demanding immediate release of all political prisoners and fair and open elections to be held in the Republic of Belarus.
  • Continue to adhere to the position of critical distrust of the regime and the procedural proceedings in cases. 
  • Strongly urge Belarusian society and international actors not to engage in any kind of cooperation with the regime.
  • Draw attention to the importance of supporting political prisoners –