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Harry Pahaniaila: Amnesty of political prisoners in Belarus is rather an exception to the rule

18.05.2015  |  Society   |  Sergey Kozhukov,  EuroBelarus
Harry Pahaniaila: Amnesty of political prisoners in Belarus is rather an exception to the rule

The cases of political prisoners are, as usually, very thoroughly considered by administrations of penitentiary institutions in such a way so that the figurants would never be amnestied.

On May 13 the deputies of the House of Representatives adopted the draft law “On amnesty in relation to the seventieth anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945” in two readings almost without discussion.

It is planned that the amnesty will touch upon about 8600 convicts, 2200 of whom will be released from the places of confinement, 755 – from the open type institutions, 5685 from the penal administrative inspections.

The amnesty will traditionally touch upon the under-age, pregnant women, women and lonely men that have under-age children, pensioners, etc. The amnesty will traditionally exclude those who have been amnestied before to do an analogous crime, and who has fully recouped the damages caused by the infringed crimes, who was convicted for the crimes against the peace and safety of humanity, racketeering, terrorism, funding and assistance to terrorism, and so on.

There is a political component to the law, too. Thus, amnesty won’t apply to those who are convicted for organization and preparation of actions that roughly break the public order; crimes against the state; those who slender the President; those who got foreign donor aid and violated the legislation of the Republic of Belarus; those who violated the order of organization or organized mass events.

When presenting the draft law in the Parliament, the Internal Minister Ihar Shunevich emphasized Belarus’ traditional observation of the humanitarian principle towards the convicts.

- Indeed, amnesty per se is an act of humane attitude of the state to the convicts, - stated Harry Pahaniaila, the head of the RHRPA "Belarusian Helsinki Committee" in the interview with the “EuroBelarus” Information Service. – It is a civilized form of actions on the part of states that is the legal tradition in most of states and applied on the occasion of some memorable and anniversary dates.

Usually, amnesty is spread to a certain circle of people. In Belarus, traditionally, amnesty isn’t applied towards the political prisoners. Such political cases are thoroughly chosen so that their figurants are not amnestied.

Even if the corpus delicti done by the convict could be amnestied, in situation of dependence on the administration of the penitentiary institutions it is very hard to avoid arbitrary punishments, for example, for violation of domestic rules. Such violations might cause non-usage of amnesty if the punishment is not lifted.

- This, basically, repeats the situation with Mikalai Statkevich, who was transferred to a tougher penal colony until his full sentence is served.

- Of course. Without toughening of the regime of confinement we could have at least hoped for abridgment of term of his sentence for a year.

- Why do the authorities clutched at Statkevich so violently, as on the eve of the president elections his release would be a spectacular step in the eyes of the foreign community?

- Statkevich is Lukashenka’s personal enemy. Besides, In Belarus it has already become a tradition that after each election the presidential candidates undergo courts and even are put to prison.

The authorities use the situation with the political prisoners as an instrument that demonstrates that the country has only one politician that lays claims to the high office. And those, who are trying to compete with him at this political stadium, should understand that they could be subject to the criminal punishment.

- Last year Ales Bialiatski was granted amnesty. Can someone from political prisoners, for example, anarchists, be put at large this year?

- They might, since as a rule, they were convicted for the first time. We need to look at the draft law: whether the articles they are convicted for are included in the amnesty. We can hope that their punishment will be shortened for one year, and taking into account the already served term people might be released.

- Do we really need amnesty? Or should we rather make the legislation more humane?

- Regular amnesties only prove the fact that Belarusan courts are using imprisonment way too often. By this very fast filling of the penitentiary institutions is taking place and they become overcrowded. Besides, an economically weak state is not able to feed such huge number of convicts. That is why it has to amnesty them so that to slacken the situation somehow and resolve the problem of too many convicts in the country.

Penal policy of the state should be aimed at making imprisonment an exclusive measure, especially for those who are convicted for the first time and those who performs less dangerous crimes.

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