Belarus has taken a symbolic step on the criminal level, according to a decree published on Wednesday. “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, while until now only those who have committed such an act were liable execution. According to the Interfax agency, the text notes that no “preparation or attempt” of crime is punishable by death except for those qualified as “terrorists”.
A decision that takes on another dimension when we take a closer look at the authoritarian regime of President Lukashenko. Since the vast protest movement against his re-election in 2020, it is indeed this reason that is used against many opponents arrested or charged. In March 2021, the Belarusian prosecutor’s office announced that the leader of the opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, forced into exile in 2020 by the repression of the protest, was herself the subject of an investigation for “preparation of act of terrorism in an organized gang,” according to the Belarusian state agency Belta.
Belarus, a former Soviet republic allied with Russia, is the last country in Europe to still apply the death penalty. The country, which carries out several executions each year, shoots its convicts. A new trial of twelve opposition activists also opened on Wednesday in the city of Grodno and their alleged leader, Nikolai Avtukhovitch, 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.