The regime marshals its supporters
By Andrei Parotnikau
By replacing the Prosecutor General, Lukashenka aimed to mobilize his forces and reserves in suppressing popular protests, which, however, is unlikely to have any noticeable effect.
On September 7th, 2020, at a debriefing in the Belarusian Investigative Committee, Lukashenka said that the presidential elections’ aftermath revealed flaws in the edifice of power.
On September 9th, 2020, Lukashenka appointed Andrei Shved, head of the State Committee for Forensic Expertise, as Belarus’ Prosecutor General. On September 10th, he said that the work of the prosecutor’s office must correspond to the current situation and should be aimed at preserving Belarus’ independence and security. Besides, he ordered the prosecutors to take some powerful and tough measures against his opponents. In response, Shved promised to step up the prosecutor’s activity in this regard and to take measures to mobilize public officials “in ensuring peace and order in our country as a united front”.
On September 11th, 2020, the General Prosecutor’s Office ordered that state bodies, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Investigative Committee, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Ministry of Health and Education, regional executive committees and the Minsk City Executive Committee, take measures to eliminate violations and shortcomings in public order and ensure respect for the rights of citizens. Translated into normal language, this order amounts to a demand to escalate repression of dissent.
After the establishment of the Investigative Committee, prosecutors lost their investigative functions and became a supervisory body ensuring that other state bodies comply with the principles of the rule of law. Orders from the Prosecutor General are binding upon other state bodies, however, the mechanism for ensuring that public officials and state institutions step up repression against protesters, is unclear. The state’s major coercive instrument, the Interior Ministry, is already overstretched with colonels and lieutenant colonels performing the tasks of sergeants. Moreover, there are cases of sabotage and evasion of repressive orders among low ranking government officials.
Excessive pressure from the prosecutor’s office is likely to lead to some confusion and increase the attrition rate of qualified specialists. Judging by the aggressive response of the Interior Ministry towards those who have already resigned and attempts to conceal documents to this effect, this must be creating a problem for the system. Moreover, as lawyers, prosecutors must understand that the actions of the regime have led to a constitutional default and executive legitimacy crisis in Belarus.
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