The upper chamber of the Belarusian parliament Wednesday passed amendments to a citizenship law that could be used to target political opposition and critics in exile. Although it has not yet been endorsed by the President Alexander Lukashenko, the bill would allow him to strip Belarusians of their citizenship.
Initially passed in 2002, the Law on Citizenship was previously amended in August 2021 to allow authorities to strip certain naturalised Belarusian criminals of their citizenship. The most recent proposals to this legislations would widen these provisions to include Belarusian born citizens, allowing Belarusians who have been exiled abroad to be stripped of their citizenship. Additionally, the amendments require Belarusians to inform authorities of their foreign citizenship or residence permit.
Commenting on the developments, assistant Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch Anastasiia Kruope said, “The efforts to prosecute Belarusians abroad and to facilitate stripping their citizenship are unprecedented acts of repression against Belarusians in exile.”
Following unrest and mass protests in 2020, a significant amount of Belarusians fled the country other areas of Europe, namely Poland, Latvia, Germany, the Czech Republic and Estonia. Liliya Ananich, the deputy head of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights, National Relations and Mass Media of the parliament’s lower chamber, said that the legal changes apply to people who “forfeited their legal bond” with Belarus, although it is uncertain how officials would determine this forfeiture.