The situation with the distribution and consumption of drugs has been stabilized in Belarus. There are no grounds for self-complacency however, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he hosted a government meeting on 29 October to discuss ways to counteract drug distribution and drug prevention measures.
Attending the meeting were government members, heads of the ministries and departments, judiciary.
According to the head of state, drug control and drug prevention have been discussed at a high level many times for the past five years. “Systemic measures adopted in Belarus in 2014 helped us turn the tide,” the President said. “We managed to stop the distribution of synthetic drugs, so-called spices, which were distributed mainly among young people. Criminal liability for the illicit trafficking in drugs and psychoactive substances has been significantly toughened.”
“As a result, we have stabilized the situation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. Over the past five years, the number of drug crimes has decreased by 1.5 times, those committed with the participation of minors - about 5 times (from 466 in 2014 to 97 in 2018).
The number of drug overdose deaths in Belarus is 14 times lower than in Lithuania and 72 times lower than in the United States. The last overdose death of a teenager occurred in 2014.
More than 200,000 people die from drugs worldwide each year. This problem is a serious challenge for the entire world community. “According to the UN estimates, every 20th person on the planet uses drugs today. These are about 250-300 million people. The number is comparable to the population of the UK, Germany, Italy and France combined,” the head of state said.
“However, despite these figures, there are no special reasons for us to be complacent. No other country, let alone Belarus, has ever taken such comprehensive measures in drug control and drug prevention. We decided then that we would return to this issue in about five years, analyze various practices and, if necessary, take additional measures, which we are doing today. Whether we achieve the goal from the first attempt or have to revisit it again, the i’s should be dotted by 1 January 2020,” the head of state noted.
Taking into account the geographical location of Belarus, drug cartels seek to use convenient logistics. “Therefore, we should understand that we have no right to reduce the pressure on drug traffickers and drug suppliers in general. If we forget about it for a moment, our country will drown in these problems,” the President said. “Last year alone, law enforcers intercepted almost half a tonne of hashish at the border. Attempts to put our people back on synthetic drugs continue. Over 36 kilos of amphetamines and other psychotropic substances have been recently seized.”
In order to involve young people in the distribution of drugs, leaders of criminal groups actively use electronic platforms: shady websites and messengers. “Teenagers agree to distribute drugs without understanding what they are getting involved in, and then get time in prison. They of course become accomplices in the sale and consumption of drugs with all the ensuing consequences,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
He stressed that the principle of inevitability of punishment should be applied first of all to the leaders of organized criminal groups and wholesale drug trafficking chains. “If you can't get these criminals yourself when they are somewhere abroad, then use international channels and other known methods of intelligence agencies. Do everything possible to eliminate the criminal network completely,” the head of state demanded.
According to him, all criminal drug-related crimes committed as part of organized groups should be subject to special control of prosecution bodies.
“The Criminal Code had recently been amended to allow the courts to be more flexible in sentencing. By the way, there was this party or the public organization [the movement Mothers 328] who called for such mitigation of punishment,” the president recalled. “People should have no doubts about fairness and validity of court decisions. The main task of the court is to thoroughly understand the situation and assign the punishment adequate to the circumstances of the case. Therefore, if we need to raise awareness of the need to ensure uniform application of the law, let us clarify the relevant issues at the level of the court itself, or maybe the Plenary of the Supreme Court,” the President noted.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also asked to ensure employment and support for people released from prison. “They are our citizens and we must help them to get back to normal life and prevent them from returning to crime," he said.
The head of state criticized the measures to prevent drug trafficking and drug addiction which he believes are insufficient. “I have repeatedly said that as long as we fight only the consequences, not the causes, we will not be able to improve the situation fundamentally. The most effective barrier to the spread of drugs is zero-tolerance in society. When there is no demand, there is no supply. We need to do that," the President said.
He noted that drug addicts are mostly young people who do not fully understand the dangers of drugs. “Therefore, we need to be proactive through educational institutions, healthcare and, of course, families. Honing up anti-drug propaganda among young people is important. Along with traditional media, we need to make full use of social networks and other popular internet resources. In this regard, the activities of the Information Ministry are next to invisible. I do not see this ministry at all," the head of state said.
According to him, the existing system to counteract drug trafficking and drug abuse prevention is being actively discussed in society. On behalf of the head of state, the President’s Administration has held several meetings with relatives of those convicted of drug-related crimes. “The so-called Mothers 328 are the subject of discussions as well. Of course, we understand them: this is a problem in the family. However, they should have taken proper care of their children first and only then weep, moan and complain to the authorities,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. “Mothers are right to focus on the need for more effective work with young people on the prevention of drug-related crimes and drug addiction. They suggest us to be more active in prevention, but they forgot that they had had to do it within the family in the first place.” The President believes it is necessary to carefully study all the proposals, including the ones coming from these mothers. “They are victims. They probably feel this problem more acutely than all the others,” he added.
Alexander Lukashenko demanded from the participants of the meeting proposals in combating drug trafficking, improving the effectiveness of this work, preventing drug use, treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts. “People should see practical results,” said the head of state.