Democracy and rights
Belarus (Belarus) under Aleksandr Lukashenko
is usually called Europe's last dictatorship. The decree
of the president has a stronger position than the laws
of the country and his power over the administration and
courts resembles sovereignty. Government-critical voices
are countered and it is explicitly forbidden to portray
the country in bad days.
Belarus elections are events that are directed to
show the results the president wants to see. His
tolerance of opponents seemed to increase for a time, at
least compared to when oppression was greatest, and the
political opposition has been opposed less openly. But
at the parliamentary elections in autumn 2019, it became
once again more difficult for independent candidates to
get space. At the same time, a free party system is
lacking, electoral procedures are taking place without
transparency and citizens who are politically or trade
unionically can expect to be monitored, eavesdropped,
fined and kicked out of their jobs.
Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Belarus, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
Freedom of association and meeting is limited. Police
violations at demonstrations occur. Human rights
organizations report that minorities, not least the
Roma, are discriminated against.
Sweden and the EU provide assistance to democracy
projects in Belarus. The country is outside the Council
of Europe, which has the task of protecting human
rights. Until 2016, Belarus was subject to international
sanctions, which resulted from the disappearance of
regime critics and election fraud, but since the regime
released political prisoners, most of the sanctions were
removed. The fluctuating economy has forced the regime
to seek better relations with the outside world, which
has also led the president to show somewhat greater
responsiveness to criticism than before. In 2017, people
who demonstrated against a disputed tax that Lukashenko
introduced through decree 2015 were arrested, but the
protests ended with the tax being withdrawn.
The economy is essentially state-controlled. There is
no independent body that examines suspected corruption
and litigation if mosquitoes occur without transparency,
but disclosures can lead to action in the public eye
(see Calendar). When Transparency International, which
examines the level of corruption in the countries of the
world, published its assessment for 2019, Belarus was
ranked 66 out of 180, see list here.
Freedom of expression and media
Belarus is in the bottom tier of media freedom. At
Reporters Without Borders, Belarus 2020 was ranked 153rd
in a review of press freedom in the countries of the
world, see list here.
After the independence of the Soviet Union in 1991,
hundreds of new magazines and magazines were founded,
but they barely started working before the thumbscrews
were tightened. Independent media was driven
underground. Belarus has repeatedly been singled out for
politically motivated prosecutions and jail sentences
against journalists, travel restrictions for
regime-critical reporters, raids on independent media
and seizures of entire newspaper editions and editorial
equipment. Often the authorities take bureaucratic
pretexts (see Calendar). Anyone who is convicted of
having portrayed the country - or the president -
unfairly risks up to two years in prison.
Through the government's monopoly on print shops,
subscription services, postal services and radio and TV
stations, the government has almost complete control
over the media. A media law from 2008 means that all
journalists - including foreigners - must obtain
government clearance to work, and foreign funding is in
principle prohibited. Many Belarusian journalists are
prevented from leaving the country, and foreign
journalists can be denied a visa to enter.
Independent media used the Internet in the past to
reach out, but the authorities have now provided
far-reaching opportunities to control the flow there as
well. Internet-based media must register with the
authorities and the Internet is subject to the same laws
as print media. In 2014, following a sharp devaluation
of the Belarusian ruble, a number of independent sites
were blocked, without explanation.
Russian is the dominant language in all media. Among
the largest newspapers is the government agency
Sovetskaja Belorussija. In 2011, the magazine published
what was said to be an intelligence report in which the
Swedish ambassador was accused of conspiring with
extremists. The ambassador was forced to leave the
country some time later, but diplomatic relations have
been normalized (see Calendar).
The Belarus Independent Journalist Association
(Belarusian Journalists Association) is working to
strengthen freedom of the press. There has been an
independent financial newspaper, BDG Delovaja Gazeta (BDG
Business newspaper), but it has been closed down.
Non-governmental Narodnaja Volja (People's will) has
long struggled for its survival. Svetlana Kalinkina, an
award-winning journalist with a background on both
editorials, has participated in, among other things,
harassment by the authorities and computer seizures.
When the author Svetlana Aleksijevich received the Nobel
Prize in 2015, she chose to comment on the award from
the independent, Belarusian-speaking newspaper Nasja
Niva (Our field). Aleksijevich stressed that the regime
was trying to ignore her and her books.
Radio and television broadcasts are completely
controlled by the regime. The Belsat network TV channel,
on the other hand, is independent - it is mainly
financed by the Polish state.
Judicial system and legal security
The legal system consists of two parallel court
systems - one for general legal issues and one for
financial disputes. Both systems have the corresponding
district court, the High Court and the Supreme Court.
There is also a constitutional court to check that
political decisions and laws are in accordance with the
constitution. Half of the twelve judges of the court are
appointed by the president, the rest by the parliament.
Formally, the courts should be independent, but the
president has great influence over the judicial system
by appointing parts of the judiciary.
Prosecutors can extend an arrest without having the
case tried in court, which violates international norms.
Also in the judicial system, bureaucratic obstacles
are used to make it more difficult to criticize the
state. When attorney Hanna Bachtsina, who had been in
business for decades, lost her lawyer's license in 2017,
she was motivated by her lack of skills.
Disappearances or murders of dissent have been
reported but never resolved. People in the West who are
regarded as political prisoners have been subjected to
abuse, isolation and difficult conditions in prisons.
Authorities show little interest in investigating
reports of abuse against LGBTQ persons.
Belarus is the only country in Europe that carries
out the death penalty, which automatically does not
qualify as a member of the Council of Europe. How many
people are executed is unknown, but according to some
sources it could be several hundred under Lukashenko's
MR activist is sentenced to punishment
Human rights activist Aljaksandr Barazenka is sentenced to a sentence of
limited freedom of movement for one year.
Entry bans are lifted
The EU is lifting the entry ban for Lukashenko and other regime
representatives introduced after the 2006 presidential election.
All parliamentary seats to Lukashenko faithful
Parliamentary elections will be held on September 28. Some 70 opposition
candidates are allowed to take part, but none of them get a seat in parliament.
All 110 seats go to Lukashenko faithful candidates, although 103 of them have
formally been declared independent.
Lukashenko pardons rival
Former presidential candidate Andrei Kazulin (Kozulin in Russian) is pardoned
by Lukashenko and released early in prison. He has served two years of his
sentence of five and a half years in prison, sentenced for disruption of the
scheme in connection with the 2006 presidential election.
Opposition activists are arrested after the explosion
More than 50 people are injured when an explosive charge explodes in
connection with a concert in Minsk. Several opposition activists are arrested
after the act and Lukashenko dismisses the security chief and his chief of
Young activists are released from prison
Opposition activist Zmitser Daschkevich and another leader of the Young Front
organization are released prematurely, following protests from the EU and the
US. In November 2011, Dashkevich was sentenced to one and a half years in prison
for participating in an unauthorized political organization.