The existing criminal legislation of Belarus will undergo changes. The “first package” of proposals has already been adopted and approved by the parliament at the end of 2020. The “second package” of amendments, which includes the abolition of the death penalty, is currently in progress. It will be considered in the spring and will likely come into force in 2022.
Abolition of the death penalty and relaxation for juveniles
One of the most important proposals in the “second package” is to exclude capital punishment from the Criminal Code, that is, the death penalty (Article 59 of the Criminal Code). Thus, the deprivation of liberty (life imprisonment Art.58 of the Criminal Code) can become an exceptional measure. If the change is adopted, those already sentenced to death will alternatively receive a life sentence. Recall that Belarus is the only country in Europe where the death penalty is still used. Over the past 20 years, more than 400 convicts have been executed in our country.
The second no less important proposal for amendments to the Criminal Code is to exclude several crimes for which juveniles aged 14 to 16 may be prosecuted. Among them are the theft of drugs (Art. 327 of the Criminal Code), illegal drug trafficking (Art. 328 of the Criminal Code), making a deliberate false report about danger (Art. 340 of the Criminal Code). Article 328 is one of the most “popular” in the country.
The third possible change is a new aggravating circumstance for the commission of the crime. That is the use of a computer, information and network technologies (clause 18, part 1 of article 64 of the Criminal Code). At the same time, it is proposed to ensure that such extenuating circumstances as a confession, active assistance in the detection of a crime and the provision of medical and other assistance to the victim should be taken into account. Despite possible aggravating circumstances, in this case, the punishment cannot exceed half of the maximum period of the penalty laid down in the article.
Another innovation is mediation in criminal law, that is, the conclusion of an agreement on reconciliation with the victim, with the assistance of a mediator, which can significantly reduce the punishment for the perpetrator. It is also proposed to introduce a new concept into the criminal law – “civil agreement with a convicted person” (Art. 94-1 of the Criminal Code) for crimes that do not pose a great public danger, less serious and serious crimes.
Healthcare workers can become witnesses
Significant changes can be made to the Criminal Procedure Code. Already, for various reasons, lawyers may not be allowed to see prisoners, it is proposed to legitimize this practice by limiting the time of a meeting with a lawyer to one hour. The second possible amendment is the interrogation of a healthcare worker as a witness and without the patient’s consent for circumstances constituting a medical secret (clause 7, part 2, article 60 of the Criminal Procedure Code).
Thirdly, it is suggested that evidence should include “explanations received before the initiation of a criminal case” (a so-called survey within the framework of operational-search activities) and refer to evidence as “actual changes from sources not provided for in Part 2 of Art. 88 of the Code of Criminal Procedure if they are obtained in compliance with the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens ”.
An equally important proposal is to legitimize the conduct of a search without witnesses. The wording is as follows: inspection, a search is carried out with the participation of attesting witnesses or with the use of sound and video recording. Body search, if the amendments are adopted, may be carried out by a law enforcement officer of the opposite sex, when the case is “urgent” and if it is not necessary to undress a person.