Session to discuss draft law on revising the criminal justice system

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Amendments to the criminal law and criminal procedure rules should not create loopholes, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said on 7 August at a meeting to discuss the draft law on revising the criminal justice system.

The draft law had been discussed in August last year. It provided for the use of pre-trial agreement on cooperation, compensation in criminal cases, and absence of persecution in the event of business risks. There were plans to decriminalize certain actions that do not pose major threats to the society, and to toughen fines for economic crimes.

The President instructed MPs, law enforcement agencies and representatives of the business community to discuss the draft law in detail and make a final and well-balanced decision on all its provisions taking into consideration the interests of the state and the public.

At the session Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that possible amendments to the criminal law should not downgrade the very essence of the law. No matter what kinds of amendments are introduced, the law should remain an efficient instrument to prevent and punish crimes.

The head of state underlined that the principle of inevitability of punishment should remain unshakable. “Any kinds of changes to the criminal justice mechanisms should, one way or another, improve or amplify this principle, but not create the conditions allowing criminals to escape punishment. We do not have any right to condone on impunity,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state noted that the proper handling of criminal cases is also important. “Investigations that drag for a long time and bring no results should not be commonplace. A prosecutor, investigators and courts should use modern legal instruments that can secure fast and objective investigation and examination of criminal cases”.

Aleksandr Lukashenko asked whether the amendments that are aimed to resolve the issues of the law enforcement practice will turn into loopholes for criminals. According to the head of state, the pre-trial agreement on cooperation has triggered heated debates. In particular, the document says that in order to reduce the term of punishment a criminal will need to provide information on the crimes committed by other people. In this respect the President expressed concern: “Does it mean criminals will not be able to shower the investigation agencies with “tales” about alleged accomplices? Will not they give false testimony for the sake of their necks? Are you confident the agreement will not become a way for dangerous offenders to avoid deserved punishment?”. “Let us be frank: can we be absolutely confident in our law enforcement agencies? Can we be confident that they will use the agreement for lawful purposes only and not for their own advantage in the form of kickbacks in return for mitigating the sentence?” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

Participants of the meeting also considered such forms of punishment as fines, criminal and legal redress. “We have been making headway in this area. But are there guarantees that such measures will be used in respect of the people who deserve leniency?” the President asked. The Belarusian leader also wondered if financial punishment would help correct such persons and if it is worth to introduce this form of punishment in respect to all the crimes envisaged in the document.

“It is true, we have some issues. We fall behind in some respects, however we are not Ukraine, not Russia, not even the West. Our law enforcement system is pretty tough. So I cannot say that Belarus lags behind others in terms of the inevitability of punishment. During the time of the “dictatorship” of Lukashenko, the prison population has halved compared to the “democratic period”. This means that we have efficient criminal laws and it would be wrong to say that we threw everyone in prison,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state noted that he views all suggested amendments from the prism of their relevance in modern-day Belarus.

At the end of the meeting the President asked to give him a brief and clear comparative analysis of suggested amendments to the key laws. “However, I would like to reiterate that we should not over-simplify things. No way. We have too many crimes, in particular, corruption crimes and we need to step up our anti-corruption efforts. We are mulling over amendments to anti-corruption laws and the laws related to grave economic crimes. We are losing big money here,” the President added.