Belarusian law students enrolled at the European University for the Humanities file reports with JURIST on the current circumstances in Belarus under the constitutionally contested presidency of Alexander Lukashenka. Here, one of them comments on the bill currently before the Belarusian parliament that would allow the withdrawal of citizenship from ordinary Belarusians. For reasons of confidentiality and security, we retain the name of the correspondent who submits this report. The text has only been slightly modified to respect the author’s voice.
Recently, the Belarusian Parliament received many “interesting” bills, including the bill “On the denunciation by the Republic of Belarus of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and a bill that young men who are students of foreign universities will no longer benefit from a postponement of military service.
Here, however, I would like to discuss a bill that will affect a much larger number of Belarusians. This is a bill amending the draft law “On Citizenship of the Republic of Belarus”, which will allow the Belarusian authorities to deprive ordinary Belarusians of citizenship.
And what is most unusual, it will be possible to deprive even Belarusians who acquired citizenship by birth.
In order to enlighten you on the context of what is happening, Belarus has already passed a bill according to which Belarusians can be tried in absentia for extremist activities. This means that it is now possible to convict a person even if they are already forced to be relocated to another state.
The citizenship of those convicted of certain crimes could have been revoked earlier under 24 articles (mass riots, mercenary activities, terrorism, etc.). But this could only happen to those who became citizens “as a result of admission to citizenship of the Republic of Belarus”, and not by birth.
The new bill will affect all Belarusians. The new grounds for deprivation are set out in 55 articles that cite calls for punishment, acts of violence or threats of violence against an employee of internal affairs bodies or a civil servant, and many other articles that human rights activists man regard as political.
In the document, this is veiled as follows: “if the legal facts relevant to making decisions on citizenship matters occurred before the entry into force of this law, then decisions on citizenship matters shall be made in accordance with this law”. In other words, those who are already serving a sentence for, for example, calling for sanctions or insulting a police officer may be deprived of citizenship. But even if a person has not yet been convicted, but wrote a comment three years ago that can be considered a threat of violence against an internal affairs official, the author can be deprived of his passport.
I want to emphasize that this violates the current Constitution, which states that the bill of the Republic of Belarus is not retroactive.
In addition, according to this draft law, persons who have obtained citizenship or a residence permit of another state must necessarily inform the organs of internal affairs or the organs of the diplomatic service.
The entry into force of this bill is only a matter of time. This bill has already passed the first reading, we are waiting for the second. After the adoption of the law by the Parliament in two readings, the draft law will have to be approved by the upper house of the Parliament — the Council of the Republic. After that, he will be sent to Alexander Lukashenka for signing.
If the bill passes all these stages without change, it will enter into force six months after its official publication.