Belarus boosts KGB powers, outlaws protests

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko
Tightening the screws on dissent, Belarusian legislators have approved a package of amendments that significantly expand KGB powers – including the right to enter homes – and ban foreign financing of non-government organizations (NGOs).

The draft law entitles the president to decide, for instance, under what circumstances security service officers are authorized to implement the use of weapons. It also defines what organizations the KGB is allowed to carry out its counter-intelligence and “other activities” in the name of providing security.

Once the bill is signed into law, security officers will be authorized to “freely” break into organizations, as well as residential homes if they believe a crime was or is being committed or a criminal suspect is hiding inside. 

The text of the document, entitled, “On amendments to law of the Republic of Belarus on Bodies of State Security of the Republic of Belarus” was published this week on the website of the National Center of Legal Information. The draft was adopted by the House of Representatives and approved by the Council of the Republic on October 3.

The draft bans any protests without the necessary permission and makes it illegal for foreign entities to finance NGOs.

In addition, the bill prohibits “activity of non-governmental organizations and public unions aimed at granting benefits and privileges to citizens of Belarus by foreign states in connection with their political and religious views or nationality in violation of the law,” cites Charter'97 news portal.

Furthermore, the draft law prohibits “republican and local NGOs and their unions to keep money, precious metals or other valuables in banks and non-bank credit companies located in foreign states”.

Financial and other property received from “illegal sources” should be turned over to the state budget, the document reads.  

The bill also toughens punishment for unsanctioned protests, thereby making the constitutional right to freedom of assembly pointless since obtaining permission for a rally in Belarus is close to impossible.

“Before, Belarus was similar to socialist Poland. Now it becomes like Romania under [president Nicolae] Ceausescu,” writes opposition website 'Belarusian Partisan' in an article entitled, “Dictatorship legalized in the country”.

With these new amendments, even human rights activists' appeal to the UN Committee Against Torture may be turned into acts of high treason, lawyer Vladimir Labkovich said in his comment to naviny.by

“Belarusian Partisan” notes that the draft was adopted quietly, and without attracting public and media attention. State news outlets did not rush this time to inform the audience on this new 'wonderful' initiative, the portal observes.

Adding more controversy to the story, which has already been dubbed “secret” in the media, the Republic Council's press-service told BelaPAN news agency that no draft laws were considered by the upper house on October 3. It underlined that it is “technically impossible” for a law to be adopted and approved by both houses of the parliament on the same day.

It is yet not clear when exactly the bill will be passed into law, but few doubt that it will be done in the nearest future.