La Biélorussie légalise la peine de mort pour « tentative d’acte de terrorisme »

La Biélorussie légalise la peine de mort pour « tentative d’acte de terrorisme »

The last country in Europe to still apply the death penalty, Belarus introduced it for the preparation of an attack or the “attempted act of terrorism”according to a decree published on Wednesday, May 18, cited by Russian agencies. “Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has signed the law providing for the possibility of the death penalty for an attempted act of terrorism”, according to the RIA Novosti agency. Until now, only those who committed such an act were liable to execution.

According to the Russian agency Interfax, the text, which was published on Wednesday, stipulates that no “preparation or attempt” felony is not punishable by death except for those qualified as “terrorists”. The portal publishing the texts of Belarusian law was not accessible Wednesday from abroad, but according to Russian agencies these new standards will come into force in ten days.

Since the vast protest movement in 2020 against the re-election of Mr. Lukashenko, in power since 1994, many opponents have been charged and arrested for attempted or preparing an act of terrorism, including the leader of the opposition forced to exile by the repression of protest, Svetlana Tsikhanovskaïa. In March 2021, the Belarusian prosecutor’s office announced that Mme Tsikhanovskaïa was herself the subject of an investigation for “preparation of an act of terrorism in an organized gang”, according to the Belarusian state agency Belta.

“A direct threat”

She reacted on Twitter on Wednesday to the expansion of crimes punishable by capital punishment as a “direct threat” targeting opponents of Mr. Lukashenko’s regime and those who oppose Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, which has used Belarusian territory for part of its assaults. “The illegal regime has introduced capital punishment for cases of attempted terrorism. It is a direct threat against activists who oppose the dictator and the war”commented on Twitter Mme Tsikhanovskaya. “I call on the international community to react, to sanction parliamentarians and to use every tool to prevent political murders”she added.

Belarus and its leaders are already the subject of numerous Western sanctions, on the one hand because of the repression which has decimated the opposition and civil society there, and on the other hand because of the support for the Russian offensive against Ukraine. The country carries out several executions each year, with a bullet fired in the back of the neck of the condemned man, and which are always kept secret, the families only being informed a few months later.

Considerable screw turn

Since the presidential election of August 2020, during which Mme Tsikhanovskaya received surprise popular support, mobilizing huge crowds to denounce a vote rigged by the authoritarian President Lukashenko, the power gave a considerable turn of the screw, arresting hundreds of people and forcing into exile many of the leaders of the opposition or simple demonstrators. Figures of the movement have been sentenced to heavy prison terms, NGOs and independent media have been banned and accused of extremism.

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The trial of twelve opposition activists also opened on Wednesday in the city of Grodno; their presumed leader, Nikolai Avtoukhovitch, is notably accused of an act of terrorism and of preparing an act of terrorism in an organized gang, according to the human rights NGO Viasna, several of whose members and its leader are also in prison. According to this source, the investigators accuse the group of having set fire to a car and the house of a policeman, then to have exploded the car of another.

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The World with AFP

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