The introduction of “soft” repressions does not imply the process is irreversible.
What trends prevailed in the field of human rights over the past year? Does the use of ‘soft’ repressions mean the repressive system will be gradually abolished? What challenges will Belarus face this year?
- Belarusian authorities switched to the "soft practices" that were actively implemented in 2016 as well. First of all, this involves the refusal of the authorities to use violence and arrests against peaceful protesters. At the same time, the number of fines increased by 7 times compared to 2015. The most important thing is that we do not see systemic and qualitative changes at the legislative level.
- That is, the softening of the repressive practices does not mean they will be abolished step by step.
- It is impossible to claim that these changes are irreversible. Moreover, the authorities have not abandoned the politically motivated prosecution.
The authorities continued to use the practice of the death penalty: four people were sentenced to death, two sentences have not yet been met. I think the government simulates changes, and doesn’t aim to introduce the moratorium.
- What caused the softening of repressions?
- We assume that this is related to the geopolitical situation around Belarus, which has a strong influence on our internal political situation, hence affects the human rights.
- Is there no sign that the authorities want to abolish the death penalty so far?
- We don’t see any signs like that. Although some analysts and international human rights activists argue that a moratorium on the death penalty might be introduced. Some post-Soviet countries did it the same way: the introduction of the moratorium was preceded by the state accelerating the pace of executions, "cleaning out" the death row.
It must be noted that the Belarusian authorities actively used forced labor in 2016. We put all the orders of the executive committees to transfer people to agricultural labor and attached lists of the specific facilities on our website.
Traditionally anti-social elements living in the medical and labor dispensaries are involved in such work, they are kept there like prisoners, although they did not commit any crime. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have repeatedly pointed out these violations and recommended that the Government stop this practice.
And, of course, we cannot ignore "the decree on parasitism".
- What are the challenges Belarus may face this year?
- A lot depends on how the Trump, situation in Russia and in Ukraine will affect our region.
Moreover, there are rumors about a possible constitutional referendum in 2018. If the authorities decided to combine the constitutional referendum with the local elections the electoral campaign will already begin at the end of 2017. And electoral campaign can lead to increase in repressions in the country, it happened on many occasions.