Belarus President Grants Himself Criminal Immunity

On Thursday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a bill that bars opposition leaders residing overseas from seeking reelection to the presidency and grants him lifetime protection from criminal prosecution.

Any sitting or previous president and their immediate family might be subject to the statute in theory. The 69-year-old Lukashenko, who has governed Belarus for over 30 years, is the only one to whom it matters.

In preparation for the next presidential election in 2025, the new rule seems to consolidate Lukashenko’s position further and remove any possible opponents.

The legislation prohibits the election of opposition leaders who have escaped to neighboring countries in the last several years and drastically increases the prerequisites for presidential candidates. The only people who may run for office are native Belarusians who have lived in the country for 20 years or more and have never been granted a residency visa by another nation.

Protests shook Belarus in August 2020 after Lukashenko was re-elected to a contentious sixth term; the opposition and the West denounced the election as illegitimate. The Belarusian government arrested more than 35,000 individuals during that period; a number of them were either tortured while in detention or fled the nation.

The new legislation states that Lukashenko “cannot be held liable for activities done in connection with exercising his presidential responsibilities” if he were to resign.

According to the legislation, the president and his family will be guaranteed lifetime medical care, life insurance, and state protection. The president would also become a lifetime member of the upper chamber of parliament once they resign.

The new rule is a reaction to Lukashenko’s “fear of an unavoidable future,” according to opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who escaped to neighboring Lithuania in 2020. This suggests that Lukashenko worries about his fate once he steps down as president.

With no immunity to shield him, Lukashenko will face punishment following international law for ruining the lives of thousands of Belarusians, according to Tikhanovskaya.