Minsk, Belarus – In a move to solidify his power and eliminate potential challengers in the upcoming presidential elections, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has signed a new law granting him lifelong immunity from criminal prosecution. The law also aims to prevent opposition leaders living in exile from running in future elections.
This controversial legislation, which technically applies to any former president and their family members, is primarily targeted at Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for nearly three decades. With the next presidential election scheduled for 2025, the new law significantly tightens requirements for candidates and effectively bars opposition leaders who have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
Only Belarusian citizens who have lived in the country for at least 20 years and have never held a residence permit in another nation are eligible to run for presidency under the new measure. This restriction further consolidates Lukashenko’s grip on power, as it excludes those opposition figures who have fled the country due to his repressive regime.
The implementation of this law comes in the wake of mass protests that erupted in Belarus following Lukashenko’s disputed re-election in August 2020. The opposition and the international community condemned the election as fraudulent, leading to the detention of over 35,000 Belarusians, many of whom suffered torture while in custody or were forced to leave the country.
Critics argue that Lukashenko’s latest move to secure lifelong immunity indicates his concern about potential consequences once he steps down from power. Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled to neighboring Lithuania in 2020, suggested that “Lukashenko, who ruined the fates of thousands of Belarusians, will be punished according to international law, and no immunity will protect him against this, it’s only a matter of time.”
Tsikhanouskaya and the political opposition in Belarus are calling for an investigation into the disappearances of opposition politicians and the illegal removal of Ukrainian children from Ukraine to Belarus, allegations in which Lukashenko is implicated. Furthermore, there are still approximately 1,500 political prisoners being held in Belarus, including Nobel peace prize laureate Ales Bialiatski.
It is worth noting that not only does this new law shield Lukashenko from prosecution, but it also ensures lifelong state protection, medical care, and life and health insurance for him and his family. After resigning, the president would become a permanent lifelong member of the upper house of parliament.
As Lukashenko tightens his grip on power, opposition leaders and human rights advocates continue to push for justice and accountability. The international community now monitors the situation closely, awaiting the next steps to ensure the rights and freedoms of the Belarusian people are respected.