By David Sophrin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
MINSK, Belarus – Under a recently passed law it will now be illegal for any member of the Belarusian military to be a member of a political party.
The new statute was passed by the parliament of Belarus on October 8. The nation’s Defense Minister noted that “without doubt, one in active military service must suspend his activities in political parties since the moment of call-up and till the end of the service.” In the future any soldier who refuses to surrender their membership will be subject to penalties.
Critics say that the law was passed as a way to silence political oppositions leaders already in the military and draft leaders of political opposition movements into the military, thereby at least temporarily removing them from the nation’s political atmosphere. In the past the military had opted not to draft political opponents.
The new law also contains a provision that bans soldiers from participating in strikes during their service and increasing existing restrictions on soldiers’ traveling. Soldiers were already prohibited from joining general public organizations that had political aims.
One of those activists who have been affected by Belarus’s recent crackdown on opposition leaders is Andrei Tsyanyuta. Tsyanyuta recently appeared in district trial for “failing to appear in the military enlistment.” Andrei claims that despite being a university student, he has been unable to receive a deferment. He claims that his political activities caused him to lose his status as a student.
For more information, please see:
DEMOCRATIC BELARUS – Belarusian Soldiers To Be Punished For Political Party Membership – 9 October 2009
RFL – Belarusian Soldiers To Be Punished For Political Party Membership – 9 October 2009
NAVINY – Conscript soldiers to face penalties for political activities – 9 October 2009
HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER – Soldiers will be punished for membership in political parties? – 8 October 2009
CHAPTER 97 – Oppositionist Andrei Tsyanyuta to stand trial for nonappearance in military enlistment office – 25 August 2009