Valiantsin Stefanovich: "There is nothing new that can affect Belarusians in the new edition of Martial Law"
Not everyone agrees that the new edition of the bill "On Martial Law" is a bit radical, but the proposed changes are unlikely to relate to events in Ukraine. This opinion was expressed by deputy head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich in a comment for the TUT.BY website.
"There is nothing new that can affect the Belarusians in the wording of the law,” he says. “Really important changes in the laws occurred on the eve of the 2006 presidential election. Then changes were made to the Law "On Internal Affairs" and the Law "On Internal Troops". In particular, the article governing the use of firearms and military equipment was amended in a very interesting manner from a legal point of view.
If earlier, cases of possible use of firearms were clear, all the grounds for their application have been formulated, later these articles were supplemented by items "and in other cases determined by the President of the Republic of Belarus". That is, police and interior troops can use firearms in some other subjective cases provided for by President. In 2006, I was more concerned about the changes because they are not connected with the military situation. They are much more dangerous because they do not stipulate when weapons can be used. We, as defenders, expressed great concern over these changes because, in our opinion, the list of situations where firearms may be used against civilians must be exhaustive and not subject to broad interpretation. What are these "other cases"?”
As for the use of weapons under the proposed changes that will allow the military to use firearms under professional risk, according to Valiantsin Stefanovich, if they are accepted, then they will simply remove the responsibility from the military that these weapons will be used by a particular order. "This is the President who gives the order that in this case you have to use a firearm. According to the new changes you are not responsible for it, because it is due to several factors, including professional risk, etc. This shifts the responsibility for possible negative consequences to the President. Nothing new here, I do not see it."
At the same time, passing the bill almost immediately after the escalation of the situation in Ukraine is not to say that the authorities in Belarus are frightened of something, says the human rights activist.
"Martial law is primarily related with an external threat to the national security, a threat to the territorial integrity of the country, foreign aggression, terrorist attacks, etc., which requires the mobilization of the country, changing the mode of companies’ work and so on. This was the case, for example, during the war between Russia and Georgia. Ukraine has not been attacked yet. What is happening there is rather close to a state of emergency, but not military emergency, although no one has declared an emergency situation there.
If the events in Ukraine will escalate into a civil war, then, martial law may be introduced, but they are treated as riots so far. So I would not link the bill to the events in the neighboring country. I do not think we can forecast a civil war or other military intervention from outside in Belarus."