Meeting to discuss amendments to citizenship legislation and amnesty
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko hosted a meeting to discuss amendments to the citizenship legislation and amnesty on 6 September.
“I have invited you to discuss important issues that have resonated with our society. This is the improvement of the citizenship legislation and the holding of an amnesty,” the head of state said.
According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the topic of citizenship remains in the focus in Belarus for two important reasons. “On the one hand, we have to take care of the security of our state. On the other hand, decent and hardworking citizens are the most important asset of our country. Those who sincerely want to become citizens of our country and to contribute to its development are always welcome on Belarusian soil,” the President said.
Over the past five years, about 14,000 people have received Belarusian citizenship on various grounds. At the same time, each citizenship application is closely studied, the head of state emphasized. Issues requiring a decision by the President are preliminarily considered by a special commission.
Citizenship applications are filed by people from all kinds of states, primarily from the post-Soviet space, as well as by people from Asia, Europe and even America.
“Last August, I asked to speed up the process of granting citizenships to Ukrainians. It was done for obvious reasons. In general, these are our people. They have made Belarus their home - they observe the laws, raise children, have jobs here, work well in agriculture, education, medicine and even science. Belarusian passports have already been issued to about 5,000 Ukrainians within a year,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.
he issues related to granting citizenship should be approached in a balanced and meticulous manner, taking into account national interests, the head of state emphasized.
“I constantly demand updates from respective authorities. I am aware of the concern of some people about this matter. Some of our citizens believe that it is necessary to be more meticulous about granting citizenship and, in general, about admitting citizens of Ukraine to Belarus. I want to tell these people not to worry. We are in control of the situation. Every person who comes here just to have a meal and then goes back, or comes to stay here, or goes in transit through Belarus - everyone is under scrutiny,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“During the discussion of the new bill, we need to take decisions on those who, having gone abroad, act to the detriment of the state and people, committing crimes. We know every one of them. We know them. Do these people deserve to remain the citizens of Belarus if they fled from their native country and severed ties with it? In fact, many MPs and representatives of the general public suggested stripping people of their citizenship if they fled and are harming the country, if their actions constitute a crime. This is what we are talking about now. Therefore, today we will consider this proposal,” the President said.
According to him, it is also necessary to discuss how to treat Belarusian nationals who have received the Pole’s Card and other similar documents. “We need to figure out whether they are citizens of Belarus who are simply confused as they applied for this card allegedly by mistake, or they have a different allegiance. I think the law enforcement agencies and the diplomatic service can mention other issues in the field of citizenship that cause concern,” the head of state said.
Amnesty was the second topic on the agenda of the meeting. The last time it was held in Belarus was in May 2020. “Now our country is under unprecedented pressure from the West. Yet, even in such conditions the Belarusian society remains consolidated and united. Therefore, a proposal has been put forward to discuss the possibility of an amnesty in the run-up to the Day of National Unity (as you know, it is observed on 17 September),” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.
According to the President, there are absolutely different people among those convicted, including those who committed crimes of negligence, as well as minor crimes, including acts of protest.
“Everyone, especially those in prison, have grown wiser over the past two years. We will hear a report from the Internal Affairs Ministry who is personally responsible for those who will be amnestied. They will monitor those people after their release. If they repented, took the path of correction and completely cleared their guilt, leniency can be shown to them. I suggest discussing the group of persons to be amnestied,” the head of state said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko deems it necessary to consider the final version of the document at a special commission with the participation of “reasonable opposition”. “We need to invite people who may have a different point of view on the development of our society. They are not enemies. Let them express their opinion,” he said.
The President said that he voiced such a proposal “due to the concerns of many citizens of the country”. “People have not yet recovered from the year 2020. There are sometimes extremities from our supporters, too. You know, this has never added to the unity of society. Nevertheless, we cannot just ignore this issue and do not hear these people,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
“At the same time, I would like to emphasize that I will be signing this document. So keep in mind that everything I said has to be consistent. We cannot let everybody go left and right. Who should be in prison, should serve their time. But again, there are people who can be released early. A pardon is possible only for those who really deserve it. Justice must be at the core. Bandits and extremists cannot make part of this group. I am talking about those who tried to derail trains, commit acts of terrorism and kill our citizens,” the head of state said.
According to Minister of Internal Affairs Ivan Kubrakov, the Ministry of Internal Affairs in collaboration with other agencies, has drafted a bill on amending the citizenship law. The bill suggests amendments and additions to a number of provisions of the citizenship law to ensure the internal security of the state, the stability of the socio-political system, to update the document taking into account the enforcement practices.
“One of the proposals is to strip a person who is outside of Belarus of his/her Belarusian citizenship, including birthright citizenship, if a court in the Republic of Belarus confirms the participation of such a person in extremist activities or infliction by him/her of grievous harm to the interests of the Republic of Belarus in line with the articles of the new law. It is proposed that such a decision will be made by the head of state at the proposal of the citizenship commission. In the future, an extremist who has lost Belarus’ citizenship might be banned from entering the country for up to 30 years. Also, the Ministry of Internal Affairs counts on the preventive effect of this legislative initiative,” the minister said.