The dictator of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, called this Thursday for February 27 a constitutional referendum that would limit the presidential mandates in the future and would also grant immunity to the considered last dictator of Europe.
“Do you approve the changes and additions to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus?”, is the question that Belarusians will have to answer.
The new president of the Central Electoral Commission, Igor Karpenko, announced that on Friday he will hold a meeting to address the preparations for the popular consultation.
According to the draft of the new Magna Carta, the future head of state will only be able to hold the position for two terms of five years each, a clause that already existed, but that Lukashenko modified in 2004 to perpetuate himself in power.
Said clause does not apply to the current president, but to the one who will be elected in the event of holding new presidential elections.
The president can only be removed by the People’s Assembly of All Belarus, which is coined in the Magna Carta as “maximum representative body”. Article 89 rules that, once he leaves office, the president cannot be prosecuted, which guarantees the immunity of Lukashenko, in power since 1994.
Lukashenko, who declared himself the winner after the fraudulent elections of August 2020, He is accused of ordering the violent repression of anti-government protests, the torture of detainees in detention centers and the summary sentencing of politicians, activists and journalists to long prison terms.
The Constitution upholds the right of assembly, including holding demonstrations, rallies, and pickets, as well as the right of association in the form of party formation, although the regime violently repressed the peaceful opposition protests that broke out after the electoral fraud.
According to the Magna Carta, Russian and Belarusian are the official languages of the State; foreign electoral financing is prohibited and the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is promoted.
In an attempt to overcome the political crisis in 2020, Lukashenko agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he would reform the Constitution.
However, the opposition fears that Lukashenko will modify the Magna Carta to remain in power, either as head of state or as president of the People’s Assembly of All Belarus.
The opposition in exile demands new elections without the participation of Lukashenko, the release of all those detained and the legal prosecution of the officials who ordered the violent repression of the protests.
Last week the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the degradation of the rights and freedoms of Belarusian citizens during 2021, a year in which the Minsk regime intensified the persecution of critical voices, including activists and journalists.
“The authorities intensified their campaign of defamation and persecution against political and civic activists,” the organization said in its annual report on human rights in the world.
According to the NGO, Lukashenko’s dictatorship launched a “purge” in civil society and shut down dozens of independent media outlets and human rights organizations.
At the time the report was written, “at least 862 people were behind bars on politically motivated charges,” HRW said. Some of them “suffered beatings, threats, mistreatment and inhumane conditions” during their detention.
Throughout 2021, arbitrary arrests continued in the country with the use of force by law enforcement officials.
HRW quoted the Vesná human rights center, which put “at least 8,712” people detained in connection with anti-government protests in Belarus between November 2020 and October 2021.
The persecution of the press also continued, the NGO added, indicating that more than 25 journalists were in jail at the time of writing HRW’s annual report.
Last year, the organization recalled, it began in Belarus with massive searches in the homes of journalists and human rights defenders.
These actions continued throughout 2021 and resulted in the opening of criminal cases against Belarusian activists for alleged “tax evasion” and “participation in criminal organizations”.
In November 2021, the Belarusian authorities liquidated more than two hundred rights organizations and also the Belarusian Association of Journalists, founded shortly after the fall of the USSR, as well as the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
HRW also highlighted the forced landing of the Ryanair plane in Minsk last May and the subsequent arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich., as one more example of the violation of international norms by the Lukashenko regime, which led to the imposition of new sanctions against the country.
The report also denounced the execution of the prisoner viktar skrundzik in Belarus and again called on the authorities to abolish capital punishment.
(With information from EFE)
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