Lukashenko wants to go to prison

22.06.2021 Off By Editor
Lukashenko wants to go to prison

In normal countries, criminals are put in prison, while law-abiding citizens live freely. Things become much more interesting when a country decides to jail the majority of the public and pass laws that allow to put anyone in prison.

But everything has its limits, even prisons. Therefore, if there’s not enough space in a prison, it may turn out that the only safe place for the jailers themselves is the prison – if the entire state doesn’t get turned in a huge prison, of course. Let’s get to the point.

As you might have guessed, we will talk about Belarus and its amendments to the Criminal Code. Lukashenko has signed a law on amending the Criminal Code, which will now contain new articles, for instance, related to combating extremism, the rehabilitation of Nazism and violations during public events.

­Up until now, the Criminal Code foresaw punishment only for establishing and leading extremist groups. But the amendments will foresee responsibility for participating in extremist groups, incitement towards extremism, as well as funding, preparing and training extremists. The maximum punishment depends on the severity of the crime and may be up to eight years in prison.

Repeated violations regarding the organization of mass events will also be a crime punishable with up to three years in prison. It’s also a criminal offense to publish forbidden information if a person has been administratively punished for it during the last year. The same goes for gathering and publishing personal data, as well as any violations of storing such data. If information on someone serving or their family gets published, the violator may be punished with up to five years in prison.1

Of course, it’s the internal matter of any country to decide what is considered a crime. However, if the Criminal Code punishes general extremism, a country can imprison anyone who doesn’t agree with the ruling regime and wants to change something in the country.

If we consider that violations of organizing mass events are a criminal offense – and the same goes for participating in such events – we can conclude that Belarus wants to use the Criminal Code to (preventively) either stop the public from expressing its opinion or to simply put everyone in prison. If we look at the events in Belarus, there can be no doubt about that being Lukashenko’s goal.

In early 2021, there were 32,500 prisoners in Belarus, which is 345 prisoners per 100,000 people – the 20th highest number of prisoners per capita globally. In Latvia, this number is 175 prisoners.2 I will stress that this number includes only those who are imprisoned based on a court ruling – official sources are silent about the true number of those imprisoned in Belarus, but if we consider the regularity and extent of arrests, we can be sure that it is much bigger. On 9 June 2021, the official number of political prisoners was 476.3

Taking into account the fact that the protests against Lukashenko were attended by hundreds of thousands of people, who can now legally be imprisoned, it’s only a matter of time until these people end up behind bars. However, there is one huge BUT – where will Lukashenko put all of them?

Of course, he can create camps, as was discussed in early 2021.4 But it seems that Lukashenko understands that it’s impossible to establish enough camps to imprison the protesters. It’s also impossible to build enough jails in such a short amount of time. This leaves two possibilities – either Lukashenko and his supporters hide behind the high walls of prisons, or the entire state gets turned into an enormous prison.

It looks like Lukashenko has chosen the second possibility. This is confirmed by the fact that since December 2020 Belarusian citizens that don’t have long-term residence permits in other countries are forbidden from leaving Belarus.

However, according to the new rules, even those who have such permits will be banned from leaving Belarus.5 No one is able to leave, while entry into Belarus is under strict control. What establishment does this remind you of? Yes, prison. Only a handful of countries have taken this route, the most popular one being North Korea.

In any case, it’s clear that Lukashenko has created the necessary conditions for him to go to prison. However, aside from the two aforementioned possibilities – either Lukashenko hides in a prison, or he turns the entire country into a prison – there is also a third one, i.e. Lukashenko will go to prison because of the crimes he has committed against the Belarusian people.

Which one of these will come true – only time will tell.


Independent journalist,

Zintis Znotiņš