Authoritarian President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko approved a death penalty law for government officials and army servicemen convicted of high treason on Thursday, reported Reuters. Belarus, a close ally of Russia, is the only country in Europe that still applies the death penalty. Earlier, it was awarded to people convicted of murder and terrorism in the country.
The latest law has been brought in to emphasise and accelerate the fight against “crimes of an extremist (terrorist) and anti-sate orientation,” as cited by Reuters.
The law says anyone found guilty of “discrediting” the armed forces of the country will be sent to jail. Belarus’s close ally Russia also approved a similar law after invading Ukraine.
According to President Alexander Lukashenko, the death penalty will be awarded to officials who indulge in any kind of “irreparable damage” to the national security of the country, reported The Guardian.
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In Belarus, the government carries out executions with a gunshot behind the head of the convicted individual.
The law also mandates punishment for acts pertaining to “propaganda of terrorism, discrediting the armed forces and paramilitary units and breaching the rules to protect state secrets,” as cited by The Guardian.
The new law comes after an attack on a Russian warplane on February 26 at an airbase near the Belarusian capital. Lukashenko informed the public that the main suspect in the incident has been arrested with over 20 of his other accomplices in the crime. The arrested man was from Ukraine.
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President Lukashenko has governed Belarus for more than three decades. He has been mercilessly suppressing dissent and free speech in the country. In August 202, the government authorities imposed a heavy crackdown on protestors who were objecting to his re-election. The demonstrators alleged that he rigged elections and detained over 35,000 people.
Earlier this week, exiled leader of the opposition Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was Lukashenko’s main rival in the election, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for hatching the conspiracy to overthrow the government in the country, reported The Guardian.
Last week, one of the most respected human rights activists and 2022 Nobel peace prize laureate Ales Bialiatski was also sentenced to 10 years of a jail term by a court in Belarus.