In two readings at a go, Belarus has adopted a law that will enable the authorities to deprive of citizenship those convicted under extremist articles, as well as those found guilty of “causing serious harm to the interests of Belarus, if such a person is outside the country”.
Yury Nazaranka, the First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Head of the Public Security Police, stated that the law was necessary for “the stability of the socio-political system and the liberalization of its individual provisions”.
Becoming a defendant in an extremism case in Belarus is just as easy as in Russia. One can be prosecuted as an extremist for reposting information that is disagreeable to the authorities. The law «On Justification of Extremism» was adopted in Belarus in 2007 and subsequently amended. From the legal perspective, its definition of extremism is very broad and vague, containing 500 words and describing 18 forms of activity that are considered extremist. Some of the 18 listed forms of extremism entail administrative liability and some criminal liability.
The prosecution can choose from five articles of the Criminal Code:
· Art. 130 CC “Incitement to racial, national, religious, or other social hatred or discord”
· Art.130-1 CC “Rehabilitation of Nazism”
· Art. 361-1 CC “Establishment of or participation in an extremist group”
· Art. 361-2 CC “Financing of extremist activities”
· Art. 361-4 CC “Facilitation of Extremist Activity”
For example, Maria Kalesnikava, one of the leaders of the protests that engulfed Belarus in response to electoral fraud in 2020, was convicted on two of the articles. During the election campaign, she headed Viktar Babaryka's election headquarters and was a member of the Presidium of the Coordinating Council. The election was falsified, and president Alexander Lukashenko embarked on his next term. Maria Kalesnikava, a major opposition figure at the time, was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in jail.