Dictatorship is not a pretty thing. In Belarus it is especially ugly and yesterday the government of Aleksandr Lukashenko granted sweeping powers for the KGB to more easily arrest citizens, enter homes and businesses, and use more violent means against protestors.
Part of the new law reads (translated), An officer of a state security body does not bear responsibility for injuries and damage caused by use of physical force, special and military equipment, use of weapons in the cases covered by this Law or by other legal acts, when he acted in the conditions of substantiated professional risk…
And when can state security officers use violence? During arrests and taking to state security agencies suspects against who show defiance or insubordination, as well as persons detained on an immediate suspicion for committing a crime, persons in custody when they show defiance or insubordination or there are reasons to believe that they could escape or do damage to people around them or themselves; termination of mass disorder and group violations of public order or actions aimed at damaging and (or) destruction of property.
And how about additional justifications not spelled out in this law? A representative of state security agencies has a right to use weapons, including firearms, and for the use of firearms also in cases determined by the President of Belarus.
For the past several months the citizens of Belarus have been conducting “silent protests” by walking the streets and simply clapping hands while saying nothing. Last month the dictator made it a crime to clap hands in public and to do so means a certain prison sentence.
As of this week the only region where citizens still clap hands as a sign of silent (and non-violent) protest each Wednesday is the city of Gomel. Away from the capital, Minsk, the people of Gomel have continued their Wednesday clapping but that too may be subject to heightened crackdowns by KGB and police.
The Belarussian human rights organization Chapter 97 says that Vital Pratasevich, an active participant of “Revolution by social network” group was been brutally beaten in Gomel. Pratasevich was returning from work when he was attacked by a group of unknown men after exiting a Gomel trolleybus.
The men wore facemasks but ran him down in a public park and then proceeded to beat him in the head and abdomen areas, splitting his eyebrows and leaving him with head wounds and bruised. Mr. Pratasevich had received threats from state security officers after the latest protests actions in Gomel.
Previous presidential candidates Andrei Sannikov and Mikalai Statkevich, oppositional leaders Zmitser Bandarenka and Zmitser Dashkevich, human rights activists Ales Byalyatski, and businessman Mikalai Autukhovich, all peaceful opposition activists, remain in prison. Other participants of the peaceful December 2010 rallies sentenced to a term in a penal colonies are serving their terms as well.
Opposition groups have called for a nationwide rally for solidarity with Belarussian political prisoners at 1900 hours (7pm) Minsk time on Friday, 21 October.