Statement of the BNYC “RADA” in connection with amendments to the Codes of criminal liability
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:
On February 21, deputies of the House of Representatives passed in the second reading the bill “On amending the Codes on criminal liability”. According to the bill, Article 356 part 2 of the Criminal Code provides for the death penalty for treason against the state, committed by an official holding public office or a person subject to the status of a member of the armed forces.
However, the concept of “treason against the state” is vague and open to interpretation, which can lead to abuse and wrongful convictions. State authorities may use the charge of treason as a way to suppress dissent, which in turn would have an overwhelming impact on freedom of speech and human rights in Belarus.
In this regard, we note with grave regret another expansion of the use of the exceptional measure of punishment, which only underscores the morbid situation in Belarus, when the state acts only by threatening to execute its citizens at a time when society needs a peaceful dialogue. We recall that the previous expansion of the death penalty as a punishment was less than a year ago.
We are consistently opposing the use of the death penalty and calling for concerted actions in that direction. Many countries around the world have abolished the death penalty in pursuit of the right to life, justice, and effectiveness in deterring crime.
Other significant changes include the addition of Article 289-1 “Propaganda of Terrorism” to the Criminal Code. Lukashenko’s political regime has a long history of suppressing political opposition and dissent, using the legal system as an instrument of repression. The inclusion of this Article in the Criminal Code would give the regime one additional tool to prosecute and punish those who criticize it. The lack of clear and transparent criteria for defining terrorist organizations and activities also raises concerns about the arbitrary and discriminatory application of the law.
We recall that the international community has repeatedly expressed concern about the human rights situation in Belarus, including the use of violence, intimidation, and repression against peaceful demonstrators and civil society. The addition of a vague and overly expansive offence to the Criminal Code only reinforces these concerns and increases the risk of further human rights violations.
We, therefore, conclude that the amendments adopted by the House of Representatives will impede the building of public dialogue, as they will be used by the Lukashenko regime as an instrument of repression against civil society and the population.
With this in mind, we:
- Reiterate our demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.
- Recall that the struggle for democratic values continues in Belarus and call upon the international authorities to fully and openly support civil society in Belarus.
- Urge the authorities of the countries of the world to strengthen sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime and consider other options for applying political pressure.
- Call upon the international community to continue monitoring the situation in Belarus and to put pressure on the government to ensure respect for human rights and support the rule of law.