Comparative law and justice/Belarus

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Basic Information[edit]

Demographic Information:

Belarus flag finial.png

Source: Downloaded from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_Belarus.svg

Total Population:

9,648,533


Age Breakdown:

(0-14 yrs.) 14.3% (15-64 yrs.) 71.3% (65+) 14.5%


Gender:

(0-14) Male 707,550 Female 667,560 (15-64) Male 3,337,253 Female 3,540,916 (65+) Male 446,746 Female 948,508


Ethnic Make Up: Belarusian 81.2%, Russian 11.4%, Polish 3.9%, Ukrainian 2.4%, other 1.1%


Religion: Eastern Orthodox 80%, other (Including Roman Catholic Protestant, Jewish and Muslim) 20%


Official Languages: Belarusian 36.7%, Russian 62.8%


Unofficial Languages: Polish/Ukrainian 0.5%


Region: Eastern Europe


Continent: Europe


Total Landmass: 207,600 square kilometers


Avg. Climate: Cold Winters, humid summers


Bordering Countries: Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine


Terrain: Flat, created by glacial carving [1]

Brief History[edit]

Belarus became it's own independent country from the USSR in 1991. Apart from any other former USSR countries, Belarus developed the strongest political and economic ties to Russia. Regardless of the two-state treaty signed between Russia and Belarus on December 8, 1999 there has been no serious intergration of the political and economic relationship between the two countries. Freedoms such as speech and press, religion, and peaceful assembly are not enjoyed yet by the Belarus popuation. President Lukashenko (elected in 1994) has gained power through an authoritarian approach [2].

Economic Development, Health, and Education[edit]

The GDP of Belarus is 120.7 billion dollars per year[3]. In 2008 there was a projected growth of 10% for the year however with the recession in 2009 it turned out to be a negative 0.2%. GDP capita is 12,500 per year[4]. With an unemployment rate of 27.1% it appears that there is some growth to happen before the 10% improvement rate is reached[5]. The key industries in Belarus include metal cutting machine tools, tractors, trucks, earth movers, motorcycles, televisions, synthetic fibers, fertilizers, radios and refridgerators[6]. Exports of Belarus include machinery and equipment, mineral products, chemicals, metals, foodstuffs, and textiles[7].

Concerning health, the infant mortality rate is currently 6.43 per 1,000 live births. The male life expectancy rate is 64.95 years and the female life expectancy rate is 76.64 years [8].

As far as education goes, more than a good majority of the population can read and write at the total rate of 99.6%. The males barely win with 99.6% over the females with 99.4%. The females do attend one year more of school on average with 15 years of attendance, making the male attendance 14 years[9].

Governance[edit]

Elections[edit]

The official title of the country is The Republic of Belarus. Belarus is a Civil Law country based on the fact that the written Constitution is regarded as supreme law[10]. As it stands the country is a dictatorship in reality. Belarus has been through a number of different hand-offs of power and governmental structure since the country began. After the USSR let go of the country in 1994 it took it's current type of government drafting the Constitution that is still in use and considered supreme law today [11] .

The law making power rests on the President who is issues Decrees, Edicts, and Orders needing only the consent of Parliament to finalize these proposals. Parliament and the President are the only two componants of the law making process that matter leaving citizen input out of the picture[12].

The government is comprise of two parts, the House of Representatives comprised of 110 deputies and the Council of the Republic totaling 56 members [13].

In terms of elections the Belarus Official City Website states that all elections are held for and by the people of Belarus [14]. The Belarus website states that all people have the right to vote but since Aleksandar Lukashenko took office the elections have been fixed and completely disregard what the citizens desires[15].

The elections since Aleksandar Lukashenko had been nominated prove that violence against opposition parties, peaceful protestors, and human rights activists are the preferred route that the electoral process now follows [16].

Judicial Review[edit]

In regards to judicial review there is none. Belarus governmental authorities hold a tight grasp on what the Belarus courts do. Serious violations of the legal system are happening despite what the UN and other countries are asking Belarus to do [17].

The courts are manipulations of the President as seen in recent events of December. Many peaceful protestors and human rights activists were arrested and sent to trail without defense councils and condemned as the president saw fit [18].

Courts and Criminal Law[edit]

Punishment[edit]

Belarus has a lack of information on the actual punishment of it's convicted criminals.

What little is mentioned is in regards to the death penalty. Belarus is the only European country at this point to still have a death penalty. Just recently this past year two prisoners were executed minutes after they were notified. A mother of one prisoner was informed of the execution a day after it happened although it might take many more months for her to get an official notification by the government.

The execution rates are hard to know for sure since a lot of them happen secretly. As far as the style for execution, the prisoners can be told minutes before they are killed and it is by a single shooter with a gun to the back of the prisoners head. Amnesty International estimates approximately 400 executions since 1991.

One journalist had been thrown in jail for 3 years for re-printing a Muhummod cartoon. The trial took place behind closed doors. Afterwards the Belarusian-Muslim community was issued an apology by the government they felt that the punishment did not correspond with the actions.

A lot of Belarusian punishments are not mentioned online most likely because of the lock-down that the government has on the people and information that comes out of the country.

Legal Personnel[edit]

Belarus uses three branches of courts. General courts, economic courts, and constitutional courts [19]. The general courts consist of four different branches, the Supreme court of the Republic of Belarus, religious courts, MInsk City County, Regional Courts, Military Courts, and Town Courts [20]. The economic courts consist of The Supreme Economic Court of the Republic of Belarus, the Regional Economic Courts, and the Minsk City Economic Courts [21]. The Constitutional Courts are made up of people with two standards, people under the age 70 and people qualified to a degree level [22].

The actual purpose of each court is unclear. In recent events President Lukashenko was elected again by a landslide and this lead to the prosecution of opposition candidates and many other people [23]. Each trial lasted no longer than 15 minutes a piece and it was clear that the government was pressuring the lawyers to get to these results [24]. The government also ensured that the people who were detained did not receive any legal representation in the form of defense lawyers [25]. The court system is comprised of puppets for the government so they can condemn and punish anyone that they want.

Law Enforcement[edit]

Belarus is a Martial Law style country. Information about the Belarusian law enforcemnt group tends to be hard to find. There are not very many mentions of the through the internet however there are mentions of what the government is providing the police force with. In the 90's there were a few training excerises that the American government helped with. These included a customs training course, a financial inverstigative course, security upgrades at the nuclear facility, and a legal reform course[26]. In a section from the World Police Encyclopedia the law enforcement make up is comprised of the Committee for State Security, the Ministry of Interior, the Presidential Guard, the Emergency Ministry, the State Customs committee, and the Border-Security forces [27].

Although the information about what the Police are doing is unavailable there is some information to show what the Belarusian police are not doing. The police and justice forces are not fully complying with the minimum standards to prevent human trafficking and are currently attempting to make a positive change in that regard [28]

Crime Rates and Public Opinion[edit]

The information on Belarus shows that theft and smaller degrees of crime are the most committed. Most recently in 2008 the crime rate had been recorded at 902.9 per capita (100,000) while the theft count broke 100,000 incidents the previous three years [29]. For the most part these crimes are committed around tourist locations and involve some degree of discretion, utilizing dark areas[30]. Even when it comes to crime involving cars, actual stealing of the cars is uncommon, stripping parts and vandalism is favored[31]. A few years ago there was a 9.3% decrease in crimes of this nature as stated by President Alexander Lukashenko[32]. Lukashenko then publicly demanded more coordination between the law enforcement agents and the General Persecutors Office[33].

In regards to more extreme crimes, murder is something that doesn't happen too often which has a standing crime rate of 5.6 per capita (2008)[34]. Belarus also houses a certain level of organized crime both at the local and transnational level[35]. Regardless of this element being present there is little to no violence influenced by organized crime, including street level. As far as sexual assaults are concerned, it is a more common instance than not. It appears as though the assaults are on the decline, however, with the count of 797 in 2007 to 613 in 2008[36]. Per capita the number decreased from 8.2 to 6.3[37].

Prevelent crime exists in the form of cyber-crime. Belarus has a good hold on ID theft, hacking and blackmail schemes, and purchasing merchandise with fraudulent credit cards[38]. Visitors and tourists are cautioned to use debit/credit cards only at atms inside major banks[39]. Although there is usually no violence towards the tourists during street atm robberies, there has been known violence in the case of resistance[40].

Along with cyber-crime Belarus has been looked at for money-laundering. With the known local and transnational organized crime it became of notice in 2008 when the "know-your-customer" requirement was greatly decreased from the anti-money-laundering legislation[41]. Belarus has been very lax about investigating and persocuting money laundering situations.

After searching everywhere it appears that there are no opinions on public crime polls and statistics taking. From a UNODC Metadata report the statistics that are provided for the world survey are provided after investigations are closed[42].

Rights[edit]

Family Law[edit]

The constitution of Belarus states in article 32 that all citizens of Belarus are allowed to get married after they reach the legal age of consent. Both the woman and the man are allowed to chose for themselfs who they will be married to. In regards to getting married to a non-citizen of Belarus a number of different documents must be submitted from both America and Belarus. The only way that a marriage will be legally acknowledged is if the marriage takes place at a registrar's office called ZAGS (Office for matrimonal acts registration).

In the constitution there are no laws about the dissolution of marriage. In regards to inheritance the only mention found online regarded inheriting property. January 2009 brought about a new Land Code making it possible for foreigners to be able to inheret land. Before the change the property of the deceased was to be rented to the intended inheretors. The inhereted land can then be either sold to Belarus citizens and authorities or given away to anyone[43].

Belarus did not let a lot of information out about the rights of women in the country or their legal privilidges. A NGO by the title of HOPE is a women's rights movement that started in the 19th century[44]. This group fights for the equality of women in the working world as well as stopping domestic violence, improving legislation and over all inclusion in the decision making processes. Looking at the situation from the outside, it appears that women have little to no rights in the country regardless of whether the law states it or not[45].

The person who makes the decision process is presumably the husband. The constitution states that the parents are the ones who should provide a healthy living environment, education, and well being so that the children can take care of their parents when they reach the age to do so.

Social Inequality[edit]

It appears that the government and President are only out for themselves. The heath care and hospitals are horrible [46]. Corruption and greed in government authorities demand high prices for education and other governmental services[47].

Living conditions are awful and there's almost nothing that the people can do about it because of the vast control that the government has [48].

Human Rights[edit]

Belarus has been a concern of the United Nations as well as Amnesty International in regards to human rights. Since Aleksander Lukashenko was declared President in 1994 the importance of human rights has deteriorated[49].

On top of the lack of Amnesty International the election of President Lukashenko brought a crack down on social and civil rights organizations, opposing political parties and religious groups. The Amnesty International group is concerned about this country in regards to the currently active death penalty, 'disappearances', oppression of freedom of expression and right to assembly and other human rights concerns[50] Belarus has opposed functioning NGO groups, opposing acitivists, and journalists with interest in political opposition movements[51]

In 2007 the United Nations flat out denied Belarus a seat on the Human Rights Watch due to it's abuse of this cause[52].On top of blatant disregard for these basic human rights, Belarus has been in the habit of denying any cooperation with the United Nations which is another reason to give Belarus a big red light[53]. The denial of this seat created hope that Belarus would renounce it's ways and start becoming a more constructive country.

Works Cited[edit]

  1. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html
  2. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Belarus. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html
  3. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Belarus. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html
  4. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Belarus. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html
  5. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Belarus. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html
  6. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Belarus. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html
  7. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Belarus. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html
  8. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html
  9. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Belarus. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html
  10. Law and Technology Resources for Legal Professionals. 2002. Features - The Belarus Legal System. http://www.llrx.com/features/belarus.htm
  11. Human Rights Watch. Belarus: End Massive Government Crackdown. March 2011. http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/03/14/belarus-end-massive-government-crackdown
  12. Law and Technology Resources for Legal Professionals. 2002. Features - The Belarus Legal System. http://www.llrx.com/features/belarus.htm
  13. Official City Website of Belarus. The Belarus Government. http://www.belarus.by/en/government/parliament
  14. Official City Website of Belarus. Election Process in the Republic of Belarus. http://www.belarus.by/en/government/belarus-elections/election-process-in-the-republic-of-belarus
  15. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Belarus Elections Fail to Meet OSCE Standards Says the Organizations Chair-man in Office. http://www.osce.org/cio/53807
  16. Human Rights Watch. Belarus: End Massive Government Crackdown. 2011. http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/03/14/belarus-end-massive-government-crackdown
  17. Global Edge: Belarus - Government. http://globaledge.msu.edu/countries/belarus/government/
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  19. Official city website of the Republic of Belarus: Belarus courts. http://www.belarus.by/en/government/courts
  20. http://www.belarus.by/en/government/courts
  21. The official website of Belarus. Belarus courts. http://www.belarus.by/en/government/courts
  22. The official website of Belarus. Belarus courts. http://www.belarus.by/en/government/courts
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  24. Human Rights Watch. Belarus: End Massive Government Crackdown.March 2011. http://www.interpol.int/public/Region/Europe/pjsystems/Belarus.asp
  25. Human Rights Watch. Belarus: End Massive Government Crackdown.March 2011. http://www.interpol.int/public/Region/Europe/pjsystems/Belarus.asp
  26. Embassy of the United States. Minsk/Belarus. Law Enforcement. http://minsk.usembassy.gov/law_enforcement.html
  27. Dilip, Das. World Police Encyclopedia A-K. pg. 75 http://books.google.com/books?id=4EeE3tblo98C&pg=PA75&lpg=PA75&dq=Belarus+law+enforcement+system&source=bl&ots=kFcu-JhH4Q&sig=_LyTM6z1HJT2nZ_mcvUkHfVdwUk&hl=en&ei=6NHqTM7FCZGesQP5v9SxCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&sqi=2&ved=0CCgQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=Belarus%20law%20enforcement%20system&f=false. 2006
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  29. UNODC – Theft at a national Level, number of police recorded offences
  30. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1033.html#crime : Travel.State.Gov (A service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs) Feb. 12, 2010
  31. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1033.html#crime : Travel.State.Gov (A service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs) Feb. 12, 2010
  32. http://news.belta.by/en/news/politics/?id=186831 : BELTA (Belarusian Telegraph Agency) Crime Rate 9.3% down in five months this year
  33. http://news.belta.by/en/news/politics/?id=186831 : BELTA (Belarusian Telegraph Agency) Crime Rate 9.3% down in five months this year
  34. United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems
  35. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1033.html#crime : Travel.State.Gov (A service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs) Feb. 12, 2010
  36. UNODC – Total sexual violence at the national level, number of police recorded offences.
  37. UNODC – Total sexual violence at the national level, number of police recorded offences.
  38. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1033.html#crime : Travel.State.Gov (A service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs) Feb. 12, 2010
  39. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1033.html#crime : Travel.State.Gov (A service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs) Feb. 12, 2010
  40. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1033.html#crime : Travel.State.Gov (A service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs) Feb. 12, 2010
  41. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html: CIA World Fact Book - Belarus
  42. UNODC – Metadata: Information on coverage and methods of police statistics
  43. http://news.belta.by/en/news/econom/?id=343729 : BEATA: Belarusian Telegraph Agency – Foreigners have equal rights to land inheritance in Belarus (12/03/09)
  44. http://www.boell.pl/downloads/Women_movement_in_Belarus.pdf : The whole hope in the Hope. Women’s movement in Belarus. (Jan. 28, 2010)
  45. http://www.boell.pl/downloads/Women_movement_in_Belarus.pdf : The whole hope in the Hope. Women’s movement in Belarus. (Jan. 28, 2010)
  46. Eremicheva, M., Evodkimova, E., Ignatova, S. 2009. Sociological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences. Social Inequality: The Situation of Russia and Belarus. http://eurequal.politics.ox.ac.uk/news/The_situation_in_Russia_and_Belarus.pdf
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  48. Eremicheva, M., Evodkimova, E., Ignatova, S. 2009. Sociological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences. Social Inequality: The Situation of Russia and Belarus. http://eurequal.politics.ox.ac.uk/news/The_situation_in_Russia_and_Belarus.pdf
  49. Amnesty International USA: Belarus Human Rights. http://www.amnestyusa.org/all-countries/belarus/page.do?id=1011114
  50. Human Rights Watch. UN: States Urged Say 'No' to Belarus.http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2007/05/14/un-states-urged-say-no-belarus
  51. Viasna Human Rights Center. 'Issues of death Penalty Use in Belarus' Through Journalists Eyes. Nov. 2010. http://spring96.org/en/news/38341
  52. Human Rights Watch. UN: 'No' To Belarus Rights Council. May 2007 http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2007/05/16/un-no-belarus-rights-council
  53. Human Rights Watch. UN: 'No' To Belarus Rights Council. May 2007 http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2007/05/16/un-no-belarus-rights-council