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14 December 2022, 16:06

Opinion: Belarus' citizenship bill will help defend national interests

MINSK, 14 December (BelTA) – The bill to amend the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On citizenship of the Republic of Belarus” will help protect national interests and the security of the state,” Deputy Chairperson of the Standing Commission on Human Rights, National Relations and Mass Media of the House of Representatives Lilia Ananich said at the sitting of the ninth session of the House of Representatives, BelTA has learned.

The bill on amending the Law “On citizenship of the Republic of Belarus” passed two readings at the House of Representatives on 14 December. “The bill on amending the Law “On citizenship of the Republic of Belarus” seeks to protect national interests and security of our state. It was submitted to the House of Representatives by the government. On 6 September 2022 the bill was discussed at a meeting hosted by the head of state. Following the discussion, a number of instructions were given to finalize the document at the parliamentary platform. On 22 September the Ministry of Internal Affairs sent a number of additions to the Standing Commission. Discussion of these issues and the search for acceptable wording of the text led to the significant revision of the bill. A series of workshops, four meetings of working groups and additional rounds of talks with interested parties were held to fine-tune the document,” said Lilia Ananich.

The parliamentarian stressed that the bill does not contradict the Constitution and seeks to enforce comprehensive changes in the criminal procedure legislation and citizenship legislation adopted in recent years.

“The proposed amendments are designed to ensure the equal right to citizenship of the Republic of Belarus regardless of the grounds for its acquisition, to discourage Belarusian nationals from committing criminal acts against national security and the interests of the state, to help respective authorities to create data banks on Belarusian citizens holding foreign passports, a residence permit and other documents of a foreign state that grant benefits and other advantages in connection with political, religious views or nationality,” she noted.

Lilia Ananich also mentioned some other norms. “The bill provides for the possibility to strip people of their citizenship, including citizenship received by birth, if people take part in extremist activities or cause serious damage to the interests of the Republic of Belarus, if such persons are outside our country. The decision on the deprivation of citizenship on this ground will be made by the head of state after a respective court decision enters into force. The proposed rule will apply only to those citizens who have actually lost their legal ties with the state and inflicted serious damage to the national security of the Republic of Belarus. It is important to note that loss of citizenship is applied in a number of countries, including countries of the so-called mature democracy,” the MP noted.

“When finalizing the bill, conviction-based citizenship loss regime was optimized to cover criminally punishable acts that can potentially be a source of threat to national security. At the same time, in relation to crimes stipulated by Part 2 of Article 363, Articles 364, 366 and 388 of the Criminal Code, a clause was introduced stipulating that these crimes will be the ground for deprivation of citizenship if these crimes are committed on the grounds of racial, ethnic, religious hatred or discord, political or ideological hostility, or on the basis of hostility or hatred against any social group.

We consider it fundamentally important to implement this amendment taking into account the principle of equal right to citizenship, regardless of the grounds for its acquisition,” the parliamentarian stressed.

The bill obliges applicants to take the oath of allegiance. “We believe that this will help develop a sense of belonging to the state, the desire to preserve national identity and sovereignty. The bill also introduces the procedure for assessing official language proficiency. The assessment procedure is to be developed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in coordination with the Education Ministry.

This is expected to increase the objectivity of the assessment and encourage people applying for citizenship to integrate into the Belarusian society,” added Lilia Ananich.

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