Thousands of people in Belarus [official website] on Wednesday gathered to protest [AP report] a labor law that fines people if they do not work enough days during the year. President Alexander Lukashenko [official website] enacted Ordinance No. 3 [materials] in April 2015, and it has been attacked since its proposal as a forced-labor law [FPIF report] and a reenactment of Soviet principles [Guardian report] against “social parasites.” The law requires people who live in the country for more than half a year to pay a fine equal to $250 if they do not work in an officially recognized capacity for those 183 days. There are exceptions for certain groups or those that are unemployed but looking for work, and these all require official proof and recognition. Earlier this month Lukashenko suspended enforcement of the law [Reuters report] for this year, but protests have still continued [AP report]. Many Belarusians that marched on the capital of Minsk yesterday or rallied in other cities called for the resignation of Lukashenko, who has ruled since 1994.
Belarus has faced continued scrutiny over human rights abuses. A UN Special Rapporteur in December 2016 “strongly condemn[ed]” [JURIST report] the executions of three men in Belarus, citing the executions as a confirmation of the “the persistent disregard for human rights in the country.” In May 2016 UN human rights experts expressed grave concern [JURIST report] over Belarus’ death penalty practices after reports surfaced that a man was executed while his case was before the UN Human Rights Committee. In August of 2015 EU officials praised [JURIST report] Belarus’ president for his release of political prisoners. In June 2015 UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklos Haraszti warned [JURIST report] that Belarus continues to sentence and imprison political opponents of the government. In April 2014 Haraszti called for the country to end its use of the death penalty, reiterating earlier statements [JURIST report] and citing politically motivated courts and the lack of fair trials.