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16 April 2021, 15:28

Amendments to Belarus' anti-extremism laws pass second reading

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Archive photo

MINSK, 16 April (BelTA) – The bill on amending laws on countering extremism has passed the second reading at the session of the seventh-convocation House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus, BelTA has learned.

The bill on countering extremism was brought in by the Council of Ministers and was given the first reading on 2 April. “The document is aimed at improving legislation on countering extremism to ensure national security, rights and liberties of its citizens,” Deputy Chairwoman of the Standing Commission on Human Rights, National Relations and Mass Media of the House of Representatives Lilia Ananich said as she presented the bill.

The bill proposes to establish a special time period for accelerated handling of civil trials in relation to organizations with manifestations of extremism, as well as the recognition of symbols and paraphernalia, information products as extremist materials. The bill also formalizes the terms ‘extremist symbols and paraphernalia', ‘extremist group', and expands the notion of ‘extremism' and ‘extremist materials'. The bill suggests assigning the coordinating function to the internal affairs bodies, expanding the list of government agencies in charge of countering extremism, and establishing the procedure for banning extremist groups.

The bill introduces responsibility for participation in an extremist group; financing extremist activities; recruitment and training of people for participation in such activities; dissemination of false information about the political, economic, social, military or international standing of Belarus, legal status of citizens in the country, and activities of government agencies in public statements, including in mass media and on the internet; calls for violating the country's territorial integrity; dissemination of banned information by owners of online resources that do not have the status of mass media.

“In the process to finalize the document ahead of the second reading, we fine-tuned the term ‘extremism' (extremist activity) taking into account the planned amendments to the criminal legislation. The Culture Ministry and the National Academy of Sciences were included in the list of entities in charge of counteracting extremism as they were also added to the list of entities responsible for preventing rehabilitation of Nazism. Provisions regarding losing acquired Belarusian citizenship for extremist activities were excluded from the bill to avoid repetition of provisions of the law on citizenship of the Republic of Belarus that will come into effect on 18 June 2021,” Lilia Ananich noted.

In order to specify the terms “financial operations” and “special control”, the bill refers to the definitions of these terms stipulated in the law of 30 June 2014 on measures to prevent legalization of income obtained by criminal means, financing of terrorism and proliferation of mass destruction weapons.

MPs also added to the bill the amendment that the Council of Ministers determines the procedure to carry out assessment (not expert examination) to determine if symbols, paraphernalia, and information products have features of extremism. This amendment will help distinguish between assessment and expert examination and will match the name of commissions on assessment of information products to determine whether they have features of extremism.

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