The Belarusian legal portal published draft amendments to the law “On Citizenship of the Republic of Belarus”which was recently submitted to Parliament for consideration. The document says that Belarusians convicted under “extremist” articles and staying abroad will be able to deprive the citizenship of the Republic of Belarus. And we are talking about those who acquired citizenship by birth. DW figured out how it would work and what the consequences would be.
55 articles of the Criminal Code are called “extremist” in this bill – among them calls to sanctionsinciting hatred or discord (this article is now often presented for comments in social networks), mass riots, betrayal of the state, creation and participation in an “extremist” formation (and several independent Belarusian media are recognized as such in the country today), violence or a threat against an official. Belarus has recently adopted amendments to the laws allowing judge in absentia those who left. And if the verdict of such a court comes into force, the convict – according to the new draft law – will be able to deprive him of his citizenship.
And is it legal?
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has Article 15, which says that every person has the right to citizenship. If he does not have the citizenship of another state, of course, deprivation violates his rights,” says a Czech lawyer, an expert in international legal cooperation and a former political activist Ales Mikhalevich.
The lawyer explains: citizenship can be deprived in democratic states, however, those who received it not at birth, but during naturalization. “Usually such cases are associated with fraud – for example, forgery of documents when obtaining citizenship. In some countries this also happens for reasons of national security, for example, if a person who received citizenship through naturalization is actively involved in terrorist activities.”
Citizenship acquired by birth deprived of power objectionable only in totalitarian states – Nazi Germany, in the USSR. “But I don’t know such cases in civilized countries,” Mikhalevich says.
The representative of the transitional opposition cabinet and former diplomat Pavel Latushko recalls that the UN has a special program that operates in order for states to reduce the number of stateless people. “And here Lukashenka actually goes against the main direction of the UN and plans to increase the number of citizens who do not have citizenship,” he says.
How can a person take away a passport?
However, how exactly can the Belarusian authorities take away a valid passport from a person who is abroad? “For this, Belarus must use international legal instruments, for example, bilateral agreements, inform all countries with which it cooperates that this passport is invalid, and so on. Naturally, the state machine usually does not do this, it does not deal with each person individually” , – explains Mikhalevich.
According to the lawyer, if the bill is adopted, the rule on deprivation of citizenship will not work: “If a person is convicted under such articles, most civilized countries, at least the EU countries, will be very skeptical about the verdict. The person will have the opportunity to live in the country , which he is in. From my point of view, this is just a deterrent with no real possibility of punishing a person in any serious way. “
What should a person deprived of citizenship do?
“A stateless person is a rather rare legal status,” the lawyer says. Such a person may apply for international protection in the country where he is, or move to a democratic country and apply for such status there. “In most EU countries, there is a travel document that is not related to refugee status, which is given if a person in their home country cannot obtain it. For example, if Belarus has withdrawn citizenship or a person is afraid to go to Belarus, a case has been opened against him, the degree of persecution is high, he has the right to apply to the national authorities of the state where he is located with a request to obtain such a document,” Mikhalevich explains.
Politician Pavel Latushko says the opposition’s transitional cabinet has already contacted the European Commission on the issue and consultations are underway. In addition to the status of international protection, other options are possible. “First, the Belarusian passport of a person who is deprived of citizenship may continue to be valid (after a court verdict in Belarus. – Red.). And I think that most countries of the world that do not consider Lukashenka as president will continue to perceive this document. The second option is also subject to discussion with partners – the possibility of a passport being valid even after its expiration,” he lists.
The super-task for the joint cabinet, according to Latushko, is the issuance and issuance of documents to citizens of Belarus, which make it possible to verify their identity and travel. “But this super-task will not be solved, of course, within a month or even half a year, it is necessary to work on it,” he believes.
The politician himself, by the way, runs the risk of being one of the first to be affected by the new law – eight criminal cases have been opened against him in Belarus. “As for me personally, I do not plan to change anything. I am a Belarusian, sorry for the pathos, in my heart, soul – this is how my parents raised me, my father. And, first of all, based on this, I perceive my belonging to citizenship Republic of Belarus,” says Pavel Latushko.
How will the bill affect Belarusians with a residence permit abroad?
The bill “On Citizenship” also affects those Belarusians who have a residence permit in other countries. They will be required to report this to the Ministry of Internal Affairs or diplomatic bodies. Ales Mikhalevich believes that the requirement itself – the collection of information – complies with legal norms. It will be a violation if the holders of a residence permit are subsequently restricted in their rights.
DW turned to the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Germany on behalf of a citizen of Belarus with the question: what exactly will the information about the residence permit be used for? The diplomatic mission replied that the procedure for implementing the law would be known after it came into force.
The document still has to be adopted in two readings by the parliament, then it must be approved by the Council of the Republic and signed by Lukashenka. It will enter into force six months after its official publication.