The death penalty for government leaders and members of the armed forces found guilty of high treason has been signed into law in Belarus by President Alexander Lukashenko. If the bill becomes law, Belarus will be the only European nation that still has a death penalty for treason.
The new measure, supported by Lukashenko, calls for the death penalty for government officials and military personnel who are found to have “irreparably damaged” Belarus’ national security. A fatal shot to the back of the skull would end the lives of those who had committed capital crimes.
The bill also included harsh penalties for “propaganda of terrorism,” “discrediting the armed forces and paramilitary units,” and “breaching the rules to protect state secrets,” all of which are reminiscent of the repressive laws of Belarus’ major ally, Russia.
Public discontent over falling incomes and the country’s part in Russia’s war in Ukraine prompted lawmakers to move to tighten regulations. According to political analyst Valery Karbalevich, “tightening the screws and cranking up repression to maintain control over the situation in Belarus” is necessary.
The new law was enacted after guerrillas in Belarus were blamed for an assault on a Russian warplane on February 26 at an air base outside of the country’s capital. Lukashenko announced that the primary suspect, a Ukrainian man, and more than 20 of his alleged accomplices had been arrested. Ales Bialiatski, a human rights activist in Belarus and a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for treason last week.
Lukashenko was re-elected in an election that was widely criticized as fraudulent by the opposition and the West. Over 35,000 people have been detained in Belarus, and thousands more have been beaten by officials.