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What is the threat of "terrorist" status for imprisoned union activists?

Last week, the Committee for State Security (KGB) updated its terrorist list, which now included 1,011 people. Lukashenko's political opponents and, more recently, democratic trade union leaders have found themselves in the same company as international terrorists. We found out what this status threatens the imprisoned trade unionists.

What is the threat of "terrorist" status for imprisoned union activists?

Artsiom Zharnak, leader of the primary organization of the Free Trade Union of Metalworkers (FTU), and Aliaksandr Mishuk, vice-chairman of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union (BNP), were put on the KGB terrorist list. In addition, Mishuk was put on the list of "extremists". It is believed that in the near future this list will be added up with other trade union activists convicted under the "sanctioned" Article 361 of the Criminal Code. We should remind that more than three dozen trade union activists are now convicted and serving their sentences in Belarus.

Being in the same company as real terrorists is unpleasant, but it is obviously a form of pressure on the most dangerous opponents of the regime. According to information from the Prosecutor General's Office of Belarus, more than 4,200 criminal cases on the grounds of "extremism and terrorism" were opened from August 9, 2020 to July 2021.

Artsiom Zharnak and Aliaksandr Mishuk

According to data from the Investigative Committee, 4,691 criminal cases were opened in the year following the election for "illegal mass events, riots, protests, and attacks on state sovereignty and public safety. The anti-extremist legislation is interpreted very broadly and is used to suppress any form of self-organization in society, human rights activists believe.

What is the effect of the "terrorist" status that some political prisoners are labeled with? We turned to the human rights activists of the "Viasna" center with this question.

Today, the list of "extremists" includes both Belarusians and citizens of other countries convicted of "extremist crimes" after the 2020 presidential election. These are individuals convicted under such articles of the Criminal Code as 293 (participation in mass riots), 342 (active participation in actions that grossly violate public order), 369 (insulting a representative of authority), 130 (inciting social hatred), 361-1 (participation in an extremist formation), 341 (desecration of property) and other "protest articles.

Those included in the “list” and convicted are prohibited from engaging in certain activities until the conviction is removed or extinguished. And for five years after the extinguishment of the criminal record. These are pedagogical and publishing activities. It is forbidden to hold public office and perform military service. Medical activity is also partially restricted.

Convicts are subject to special financial control. All financial transactions of citizens on the "list of extremists" are subject to special control. These are transactions with money, regardless of the form and method of their implementation. This includes opening a bank account, single payments, transfers, receiving, issuing, exchanging, depositing cash.

If money is transferred to the account of an "extremist", the bank will report it to the State Control Committee. In addition, all participants in the financial transaction, subject to special control, will be identified.

Such restrictions apply to those in captivity. Prisoners in such conditions receive increased attention and control in places of detention. Human rights activists point out that such status can be appealed.

Note that comprehensive anti-extremist laws exist only in the former Soviet Union. International organizations (UN, OSCE, etc.) more often use the concept of "violent extremism" and oppose the criminalization of "extremist" beliefs that do not lead to violence.

In turn, trade unionists from around the world were shocked by the inclusion of their colleagues in the list of "terrorists," which is likely to only worsen the already hopeless position of the Belarusian government in the International Labor Organization (ILO). Belarusian trade unions believe that the purpose of such actions is traditional for the regime - to intimidate the workers. Both those who participated in the protests and those who might have protest ideas. Today, any form of protest is viewed by the Belarusian authorities as terrorist.

And protest moods will grow for a number of reasons. Fear of war and mobilization, economic problems, massive terror by intelligence agencies inside the country, restrictions on travel abroad - all these irritants can contribute to an uncontrolled and unpredictable explosion. Most likely, they understand this in Minsk, but they cannot do anything. Because, due to a huge number of strategic miscalculations, the Lukashenka regime today has the only method of retaining power - intimidation of citizens.


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