Lawmakers to ban “investigative experiments”

MPs propose not to put bribers in jail but to list their names in newspapers and ban them from public offices for life for life.

There were 10 percent more people this year who received prison terms than those who were freed from jail. This is despite the official reports that crime is in decline in this country. Belarus Deputy Prosecutor General Aliaksandr Ivanouski proposed MPs to build three new colonies, each of them to accommodate 2000 inmates.

According to Mikjail Vavula, Prosecutor General’s spokesman, his office thus intends to bring the prison conditions in line with the European standards.

“The system should be built in such a way that the principle of the inevitability of punishment is ensured. Secondly, dangerous criminals should be isolated from the society. There should also be a balance between the interests of the society and the convicted person. Within the frame of the country’s economic capabilities, one need to ensure the correction of the convicts”, Vavula said.

Even the Interior’s Department of Corrections maintains that the number of penal articles should be reduced. Vital Stukanau, the department’s deputy head, says the Penal Code in Belarus is too strict and suggests that some crimes should be changed into administrative cases.

In respond, MP Syarhey Kastsyan proposed to relieve bribers from criminal prosecution. In his view, they should not be sent to prison. Rather, their names should be listed in the press and they should be forced to pay fines tenfold more than the sum of the bribe.

“Bribers should be also banned from executive positions in public offices from five years to life. Besides, you take $100 in graft, you will have to refund ten times more to the state treasury”, Kastsyan said.

The lawmaker did not make secret of the fact that he personally got interested in the punishment for bribery after his acquaintance that served as a chairperson of the village council and was sentenced to eight years in prison for bribe. He also raised concerns that the punishment was not adequate to the nature of crime during debates over the draft legislation on amnesty. The woman was proposed to appeal for pardon from the president, but she did not agree.

“She said that she would sit in jail until the end of days rather than beg for forgiveness, because the bribery was trumped up. She was set up as an investigative experiment. But the law-enforcement bodies recorded this experiment as a malicious graft. So, people ended up behind bars. They should have just checked psychologically how bribery works instead of sending this person to jail”, Kastsyan said.

Before the end of the parliament’s fall session lawmakers are expected to review the amendments to the law on the ban of investigative experiments. Not only “bribers” but also “drug addicts” often fall victims of those experiments, in the view of Senator Mikalai Chagrynets.

“I disagree with many high-ranking officials in the law-enforcement agencies who believe that punishment should be very strict for any quantity of narcotics. Apparently, they never faced a tragedy when a child who never had anything to do with drugs, accidentally became a participant of a transaction when part of a gram of any drug was sold or bought”, Chagrynets said.

The minimum prison term for those “drug dealers” is eight years. A $100-worth bribe can send a person for six years in colony. Mikalai Chagrynets says that after so many years in prison, a person does not correct. On the opposite, he or she becomes a dangerous criminal.

“I know very well that a young man who spent 6, 7 or 9 years in prison does not correct. He comes out with “an academic” education and his psychology is changed”.

There are over 18,000 people in Belarus who were sentenced to five years or more in prison. Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau maintains that crime is in decline in this country. At the same time, more people were jailed and freed this year.

MP Syarhey Kastyan says that the Penal Code will not be changed soon. Some provisions will be probably made softer and liberal. Investigative experiments which some lawmakers describe as a mere provocation will also be banned. When asked why they could not make the Penal Code more liberal in the very beginning, Kastsyan said that it was human to err. But because of those errors, over 5000 people ended up in jail, yet they could have received a milder punishment, according to Valiantsin Sukala, the Chairman of the Supreme Court. But the law prevented judges from doing so.

According to official sources, 120,000 people were convicted in Belarus as of November 1, 2007. Over 30,000 people serve their terms in correctional facilities; 6700 in open correctional facilities; 1170 in detention facilities. Over 7000 people are pre-trial detention centers, while over 10000 were convicted without the restriction of freedom.

17 percent are convicted for theft; 13 percent for murder; 9 percent for the crimes associated with drugs; 8 percent for robbery and great harm.