Aleksandr Lukashenko holds session to discuss formation of unified forensic science service
The unified forensic science service may be established in Belarus. The issue was on the agenda of the government session chaired by President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko.
Following the instruction of the head of state the government has set up an interagency working group led by First Deputy Chairman of the Investigation Committee Andrei Shved to study the possibility of establishing a unified forensic science service. Results of the work have been reflected in the relevant draft decree that has been submitted to the President for consideration. The document provides for the formation of the state forensic science service based on the expert divisions of law enforcement agencies, emergency service units, the Armed Forces, the Justice Ministry, and the medical forensic science service.
Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that the possibility of improving the operation of state forensic science agencies by combining them into a single body had been repeatedly discussed. “Back then the decision was recognized as inadvisable perhaps due to objective reasons that existed at that moment. However, time goes by, conditions of the operation of forensic science units have changed dramatically. Primarily due to the reformation of the law enforcement sector,” the head of state remarked.
The Investigation Committee has operated for more than a year. According to the President, the agency is the main consumer of the results of forensic inquiries during the investigation of crimes. The establishment of the institution entailed the revision and correction of functions of other law enforcement agencies, in particular, the Interior Ministry and the public prosecution office.
“It is necessary to emphasize that the key objective of the current changes is the radical improvement of the effectiveness of the operation of law enforcement agencies. They are meant to ensure the ability to adequately and in a timely manner respond to new risks, challenges, and threats for the sake of guaranteed protection of our citizens from criminal assaults. The changes in the law enforcement system involve other state forensic science units. It is obvious that they cannot stay unchanged in the new conditions,” the head of state believes.
Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that the restructuring of the existing forensic science system is a serious matter and errors are inadmissible. He reminded about the special importance of forensic inquiries for the sake of ascertaining the truth in criminal and civil cases, for the sake of ensuring the proper legal protection of rights and legal interests of citizens. “The forensic inquiry service has been and will be one of the most reliable sources to get objective evidence. It often plays the determining role in court rulings,” the President noted.
The head of state suggested the proposal to set up a common forensic inquiry service should be revised once again most thoroughly. “What will it give us? Will the step contribute to an essential improvement of state forensic inquiry activities? Have we calculated everything in this regard?” the head of state asked those present.
“The main thing: do not forget that we cannot waste money not only because we live in the Year of Frugality, but also because the state has no money to spare. Money issue should never be forgotten,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.
According to First Deputy Chairman of the Investigation Committee Andrei Shved, every year Belarusian experts make at least 350,000 conclusions on criminal, civil, administrative cases, economic disputes, materials of pre-investigation checks and inquiries of investigation agencies. Forensic experts participate in about 150,000 examinations of the scenes of accident. In his words, experts provide forensic data needed for investigations and help ascertain the truth during legal proceedings. For instance, specialists in fingerprint analysis help solve more than 12,000 crimes per year.
At present forensic divisions operate in eight state agencies. In the majority of organizations forensic units are auxiliary departments. As a result, they lack the unified personnel policy, financing is provided on the leftover principle, material and technical facilities are often obsolete. Therefore, according to Andrei Shved, there are a lot of unresolved issues in the forensic science service. Statistics shows that the investigation on certain criminal cases is sometimes procrastinated due to a slow pace of necessary inquiries. From four months to one year are required to perform many forensic inquiries. Low-quality procedures and experts’ mistakes sometimes help criminals avoid responsibility and get innocent people involved in the criminal investigation.
The working group arrived at the conclusion that the problems in the forensic science service can resolved only if all specialized organizations are united into a single organization which will be able to deal with existing flaws, secure sustainable development of the forensic activity and enhance the government control over the quality of forensic inquiries.
The draft decree took into account the experience of the formation of the Investigation Committee.
The working group suggested endowing the new agency with the status of a paramilitary organization subordinate to the head of state. In their opinion, this will prevent law enforcement agencies and government bodies from affecting the work of the service. Moreover, the organization will be able to employ civilian specialists and civil servants.
The State Forensic Science Service will help create the unified system of personnel training and refresher courses for experts.
According to Andrei Shved, the formation of the new body will not increase government expenses. The total personnel number will be defined by the President. The working group offered to reduce the number of personnel and use available funds to satisfy the needs of the new agency.
The working group believes that the body will become operational on 1 July 2013.
The draft decree was harmonized by the President Administration, the State Secretariat of the Security Council, the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Investigation Committee, the Interior Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Emergencies Ministry, the Healthcare Ministry, the Finance Ministry and other interested bodies. According to the working group the enactment of the decree will raise the efficiency of the law enforcement and court systems and enhance the protection of the interests of people and the state.
Chairman of the Constitutional Court Piotr Miklashevich believes that the decree provides for the balanced optimal approach to setting up a new body. In his words, this should be an organization which will bring together specialists in various industries, but not a law enforcement agency. In the course of time the number of people with rank insignia will be gradually reduced in the organization. According to Piotr Miklashevich, in a number of countries such bodies are subordinate to the academy of sciences. In his opinion, the so-called transition period in the operation of the organization will allow resolving the issue of engaging the intellectual potential in order to guarantee the highest quality of scientific research.
Piotr Miklashevich also believes that the organization should be at first subordinate to the President and later work under the aegis of the government or the Justice Ministry. He said that such forms of activity are widespread in the post-Soviet space.
Interior Minster Igor Shunevich drew attention to the training of specialists for the new organization. In his words, the Interior Ministry Academy is the only specialized educational establishment in Belarus to provide training in this field. Every year the academy’s investigation and forensic science department has about 200 graduates specializing in the field. Nearly a half of all graduates become forensic experts. According to Igor Shunevich, the number of people willing to study there may fall if the newly-established organization does not have a status of the paramilitary organization.
State Secretary of the Security Council Leonid Maltsev said that the unified forensic science service will allow reducing the number of relevant employees by 25%.
He also added that the decree takes into account all the issues pertaining to the restructuring of the forensic inquiry bodies.
Chairman of the Supreme Court Valentin Sukalo noted that forensic inquiry is mandatory in 75% of criminal and civil cases. Moreover, more and more forensic inquiries are performed in civil cases. Due to the fact an increasing number of civil disputes touch upon property interests, experts conduct more evaluation, merchandising tests. Therefore, this is a profitable industry. The Supreme Court suggests efficiently using this field of activity.
Among other speakers at the government session were Prosecutor General Alexander Konyuk, Chairman of the State Security Committee Valery Vakulchik.
Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the state forensic science service should take its proper place in the government system. Depending on the place, the status, personnel salaries and other matters will be dealt with.
“Nobody has the right to use this moment in order to improve their financial status. It will not happen!” the head of state warned.
“We have built a certain system and it is a ranked, subordinated one. If we try to make a new body part of the system and it fails to match its place regarding salaries and status, the move will unbalance the entire system,” the head of state said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko believes it is necessary to decide now whether the organization will be paramilitary. “No half-baked decisions. We should work out an optimal decree to determine these matters,” the President stressed.
The head of state remarked that the decisions made during the modernization of the Investigation Committee and the public prosecution should be borne in mind when creating the personnel structure.
“I urge you to take into account where nodes of the service will be created in order to make it manageable. Do not follow the traditional path. It is necessary to choose an optimal variant but certainly not to the detriment of the service,” the President stressed.
Aleksandr Lukashenko drew attention of those present to the need to work out the optimal title for the new body: either a service, a committee, or a ministry.
Speaking about the service being subordinated directly to the head of state, Aleksandr Lukashenko said it needed thinking about. “Frankly speaking, I would not like the service to be accountable directly to the President. It needs thinking about. But it will not be completely right to subordinate it to the government because the government is virtually limited to dealing with economic matters. I am inclined to turn the service more towards the judicial branch of power,” the head of state said.
Yet Aleksandr Lukashenko agreed the service can be subordinated to the President for the duration of the establishment phase but warned that it will be more difficult to re-subordinate the organization later because its status will have to be lowered.
Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that when financial matters have to be dealt with, “a wise approach is required as if you were spending your own money”.
“We cannot offend the people in any way. The moment should not be used to raise or reduce your status and salaries,” the President remarked.
Aleksandr Lukashenko said that Belarusian government officials must not abuse their authority.
“If I am informed that a civil servant has contacted a commercial company for the sake of satisfying his or her needs, the company will be shut down while the government official will go to prison. Your job is to think how we will return to the matter of anticorruption legislation and resolve the problem once and for all,” the President stressed.
The head of state gave instructions to polish the draft decree on establishing the state forensic science service and forward it to him by the end of the month.