President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (CTK)
30 November 2005 -- A Vienna-based rights group has decried a new Belarusian bill, saying it could make it a criminal offense to advocate human rights in the republic.
On 25 November, the Belarusian lower chamber of parliament passed amendments to the Criminal Code that would make it a crime to discredit the country. They would also increase penalties for "public appeals for...forcible change of the constitutional system."
The bill is still pending in parliament.
The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said in a statement on 30 November that the "vague wording" of the proposed amendments will allow Belarusian authorities to interpret legitimate human rights activities as illegal attempts to harm the state.
President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has ruled Belarus for more than 10 years, is to seek another term next year.