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Belarus intends to counteract family conflicts through “barring orders” and “preventive registration” for offenders

Belarus intends to counteract family conflicts through “barring orders” and “preventive registration” for offenders

The Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Basic Activities Aimed at Offence Prevention” will get a new wording. There will be innovations in regulating relations between the participants of violent situations, which often arise on gender basis, - Aleh Karazei, Head of the Directorate on prevention of the Main department of law and order and prevention of Militia of public safety of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus (GUOPP MOB MVD).

Picture: Aleh Karazei, Head of the Directorate on prevention of the GUOPP MOB MVD.

Presently, a draft Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Basic Activities Aimed at Offence Prevention” is being further developed in the House of Representatives of the National Assembly.

- It is being consented at expert level. Then the draft will be sent to stakeholders in government institutions, - Aleh Karazei commented the process of passing the Law.

Comments and proposals on offence prevention and reasons for preventive registration have been received from the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Belarus, State Committee of State Security of the Republic of Belarus, Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, National Centre of Drafting and Legislative Research of the Republic of Belarus and Senior Expert/Legal Directorate of the Secretariat of the House of Representatives. A Working Group of the Permanent Committee on National Security of the House of Representatives has been considering the draft.

Chapter One of the new wording defines the participants to family/household relations as “close relatives” and “family members”. “Domestic violence” is the only definition used in the current Law, while in the new document the definition applies to the specific offence in the sphere of family/households relations, to which “an offence committed by a citizen against his/her closed relative and/or family member” is related.

- We focus our officers on working with the citizens who have become victims of domestic violence. Victims should petition for instituting court proceedings, - Aleh Karazei said.

For instance, for causing light bodily injuries the case is opened exclusively against the corresponding petition to the Court. That procedure is carried out with no police participation. This is the case when victim’s statement is required for the prosecution. Cases on torturing and threatening with murder are forwarded directly to us or to the Investigation Committee, but may be terminated at any stage of criminal proceedings prior to the withdrawal of judges to conference room. If by this time the victim and assailant have managed to find an amicable settlement, the proceedings shall be stopped.

Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure, providing termination of such criminal cases at any stage of the process prior to the Court verdict, came into effect in 2012. According to the latest data, the number of tortures and threatening with murder has significantly reduced. 234 facts of torturing were registered during first ten months of 2012 vs. 429 facts during the same period in 2011, while the number of threats with murder, causing serious bodily injuries has dropped from 1,013 to 548. However, the situation has remained mixed. Although the conditions for comprehensive process control have been established for the victims, the facts of further aggression still happen in practice.

- The following situations are quite common. A husband has beaten his wife but afterwards they have calmed down and stopped quarrelling and ultimately he remains unpunished. A husband might believe that threatening his wife with murder or torturing her is not at all the problem. Here we see the weakness of the innovation (amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Republic of Belarus – author’s note). Very often such immunity provokes further aggression. We have had cases when preventive crime had been committed, e.g. threatening with murder, and the victim had pardoned the assailant but later suffered from serious bodily injuries caused by the same assailant.

Together with the Prosecutor’s Office, police officers will explain the consequences of such behaviour to both parties and help the victims in initiating prosecution and bringing the persons committing domestic violence to administrative or criminal liability.

Reasons for preventive registration of citizens, particularly those, who have repetitively committed administrative offence in the sphere of family/household relations, or deliberately committed crime in the same sphere within twelve months, are stipulated in Article 31.

We propose applying preventive registration to those citizens, who within twelve months have repeatedly committed administrative offence in the sphere of family/household relations.

Presently, they include three types of offence, if they have been committed against family members or close relatives, particularly, outrage, light bodily injuries, which have not resulted in the decay of health, and disorderly conduct, - elaborated Aleh Karazei.

Disorderly conduct has been the most ambiguous offence. If domestic violence takes place inside the house (especially in a detached house) and there are no witnesses, there is no violation of public order. In some cases the Courts stop proceedings because there is no violation of public order as the determining feature of hooliganism/disorderly conduct. Therefore, the work has also been going along in other direction, i.e. a draft Law “On Amendments and Addenda to the Code of the Republic of Belarus on Administrative Offence and Code of Execution Procedure of the Republic of Belarus on Administrative Offence”.

We propose making an offence such coercive actions as beating and causing psychological and physical suffering. Currently, the Article 154 of the Criminal Code stipulates liability for torturing. Torturing is defined as systematic causing of blows and specific psychological and physical sufferings, resulting in excruciation. However, there is no responsibility for one-off causing of blows and psychological and physical suffering. We hope that there will be an elaboration on that.

The other reason for filing is committing an act with the features of a crime (Articles of the Criminal Code, stipulating liability for causing different classes of bodily injuries, murder, torturing, causing light bodily injuries and threatening with murder, which have been committed against close relatives or family members), when the cases were either not opened or opened based on the so-called non-exonerative grounds, i.e. the amnesty was granted, or a criminal case was related to the category of suits, which shall be commenced exclusively against the petition of the victim. Those citizens will be filed and the work with them will be carried out within the framework of preventive registration.

Such measure as a barring order will be an innovation for the Belarusian Legislation in the sphere of family/household regulation, - emphasised Aleh Karazei.

The Law will include a provision, stipulating an opportunity for internal affairs’ establishments of issuing barring orders with consent thereto of the prosecutor. They will oblige the person, who has conducted an act of domestic violence and been subject to preventive registration, to refrain from violence and take some actions in compliance with the order. Such provision has been effective in some European countries, particularly, in Kazakhstan, Moldova and Ukraine. There is no such provision in Russia and we hope that we will get it and the outcome from the innovations, i.e. barring orders will be positive.

A barring order towards the person who has committed an act of domestic violence shall be regulated by the Article 27. According to it, committing acts of domestic violence, obtaining information about the location of the victim and her/his children, visiting the victim in her/his temporary asylum, e.g. in an anti-crisis room, communicating (including telephone communications) with the victim and her/his children and visiting the places of her/his children places of work and studies shall be prohibited. Those measures shall be effective for the term up to thirty (30) days but may be terminated against victim’s petition thereabout.

Thus, the new Law intends criminal aggression reflection at earlier stages of the conflict and application of multiagency approach to consideration of domestic violence problem (through interaction of social services and other agencies-stakeholders). Much attention in the new wording is focused on education/training of conflict participants. As expected, the implementation of all those measures will result in more efficient solution of domestic violence problem.