The Parliament of Belarus adopted in the first reading the draft law “On amendments to the codes in matters of criminal liability”. In it, in particular, it is proposed to introduce the death penalty for treason against the state, committed by an official or a soldier. According to the Belarusian Radio Liberty, this amendment was adopted by a majority of votes. Pavel Slyunkin , an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, a former Belarusian ambassador to Lithuania, in a conversation with The Insider, expressed the opinion that this is how Belarus is preparing for the possibility of an active entry into the war:
In this case, treason will be considered a transition to the side of Ukraine or surrender, or perhaps a refusal to fight. This amendment will apply to both military and civilians. The appearance of such an amendment is a sign that the state system is being prepared. For officials, it is being introduced so that they do not switch sides and provoke a split within the state system.
90% of Belarusians do not want the army to participate in the war, and Lukashenka understands what risks this decision can bring - even in the most loyal layer, people may appear who will not agree with this. And what should be done with them? We must intimidate them. And so, the prospect of the death penalty is created just for this.
It is the same with the army - they do not want to fight, they do not feel that this is their war, and they do not run there, as many Russian mobilized fled to the recruiting stations. They understand what awaits them there - no one wants to die for the Russian military imperial ambitions, and no one wants to die for Lukashenka. Lukashenka understands this very well and creates an alternative for them not in the form of a couple of years in prison, but in the form of the death penalty. This is a sign that all state institutions are preparing for the fact that such a moment may come. This does not mean that they definitely decided that they would send an army, but they definitely know that this is possible, and therefore they are preparing.
Andrei Poluda , campaign coordinator for Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty in Belarus, explained to The Insider that today's amendments are a continuation of the trend that has developed in Belarus recently:
In April, certain changes were made to the legislation related to the expansion of the possibility of using the death penalty in Belarus. Now the death penalty can be threatened "for preparation to commit certain actions." That is, in fact, it is not necessary that there be any damage that caused the death of other persons. People were shocked, it concerned a large circle of people and representatives of society. In many ways, this was a reaction to those anti-war demonstrations that took place in Belarus on February 24, and many associated this with the “rail partisans” and their activities. So far this law has not been adopted, but it is clear that officials, officials and people who will have military status have already acted as subjects. This means that they took some specific narrow target group.
There are currently no independent sociological studies in Belarus that could show trends: what society is moving towards and how it lives. But these changes in legislation are, of course, clear indicators that deep and serious processes are taking place in society. Many said that the changes in April were a reaction to what was happening in society. Now, it is possible that this is no longer a reaction, but a preliminary preparation for events that may occur.
The use of the death penalty in the country is not only a vivid indicator of Soviet conservatism, which has been preserved in Belarus. This is a preventive measure through intimidation and the unwinding of a spiral of fear.
The use of the death penalty in Belarus is provided for by law for eleven types of crimes in peacetime and two more - in wartime. There's a wide list.
The deputies also made changes to the article “Sabotage” of the Criminal Code of Belarus. Instead of “causing damage to economic security and defense capability”, the purpose of the crime will now be considered to be damage to economic and military security. In addition, the article is supplemented with a note on the release of a person from criminal liability for preparatory actions for sabotage if it is prevented.
An article is also being introduced on liability for the dissemination of deliberately false information discrediting the Belarusian army and law enforcement agencies.
Belarus is the only country in Europe that uses the death penalty as a form of punishment. In the last ten years, executions have not been so frequent - several times a year. Human rights activists constantly point out that the death penalty can be used by the authorities as a repression and a threat to the opposition in trumped-up criminal cases. According to Poluda, they do not yet have exact data on whether the death penalty was carried out this year. “We don't have any information yet. There are certain statistics, but so far we cannot say that there were new death sentences in 2022. The likelihood that no death sentences have been handed down this year is high,” he notes.