3. State Party Reports
[Parts of State party report relating specifically to relevant legal minimum ages, and articles 37 and 40]
IV. CIVIL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
49. The right to protection against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is incorporated in articles 9, 24, 31 and 32 of the Rights of the Child Act. Article 9, "Right to inviolability of the person and to protection against physical and mental violence" says:
"The State shall preserve the inviolability of the child's person and afford protection against all forms of exploitation, physical or mental violence, cruel, harsh or negligent treatment, sexual exploitation or sexual perversion, including on the part of parents, persons acting in loco parentis or relatives, inducement to crime or habitual consumption of alcohol, illicit use of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances or compulsion to engage in prostitution, begging or gambling".
50. Article 24, "Right to protection of honour and dignity", is intended to prevent degrading treatment of children in educational or training institutions. The article states that discipline and order in such institutions "shall be maintained by means based on a spirit of mutual respect and fairness and excluding degrading treatment of pupils".
51. Article 31, "Protection of the child's rights in the event of his or her criminal prosecution", states: "It is not permitted to use violence, threats or other unlawful acts against juveniles ...".
52. Article 32 "Protection of the child's rights in special educational institutions", lays down "the right to humane treatment, protection of health, provision of basic education and vocational training, meetings with parents, relatives and other persons, leave and correspondence".
VIII. SPECIAL PROTECTION MEASURES
103. With regard to children who have committed criminal offences, the Rights of the Child Act is oriented towards allowance for their age, their return to a normal life and the performance of socially useful activity, and the development in them of a sense of dignity and respect for people. Article 31, "Protection of the rights of the child in the event of his or her being called to legal account" provides that detention, arrest and pre-trial detention may only be applied to children as extreme measures and in cases provided by law. The article further provides that immediate notification of a child's detention must be given to his or her parents or the persons who are responsible for his upbringing and to the Office of the Public Prosecutor. It is forbidden to detain a child in the same room as detained adults, persons under arrest or convicted persons. Article 31 provides that, when criminal proceedings are instituted against minors, the participation of a lawyer and child specialist (psychologist) in both the enquiries and the preliminary investigations is mandatory and the cases must be heard by specialized courts. The use of force, threats or other unlawful acts against minors in order to compel them to give evidence as witnesses or confess their guilt is prohibited.
104. Article 32 of the Rights of the Child Act guarantees the protection of the rights of children in special educational establishments, to which they may only be sent by a court acting on a report from the juvenile affairs agency of the local Council of People's Deputies. This article also explains that "the essential aim of placing juveniles in special educational establishments shall be to re-educate the children and restore them to normal conditions of life and work".
105. In accordance with the current legislation of the Republic of Belarus, criminal responsibility commences at the age of 16 years. Criminal responsibility may only commence earlier, at the age of 14, when a particularly serious crime has been committed: attempted murder of a militia officer in the execution of his duty; rape; deliberate acts which may cause a train crash; robbery with violence, robbery or threat of violence, whether or not endangering human life; theft of weapons, ammunition or narcotic substances; and some other offences.
106. If a court finds that the correction of a person who committed an offence before attaining the age of 18 years does not pose a serious risk to the public, it may sentence that person to compulsory measures of an educational nature not constituting a criminal penalty. Such measures are:
107. Articles 205, 205 (2) and 219 (4) of the Criminal Code fix the responsibility for involvement of minors in criminal activity, drunkenness, begging, prostitution, gambling, and the use of minors to support a parasitic existence. Responsibility is also fixed for persuading minors to use narcotic substances (arts. 205, 205 (2) and 219 (4)).
108. Under the Criminal Code minors may not be sentenced to death (art. 22 (2)), exiled (art. 25) or banished (art. 26). When, on the opening of criminal proceedings, there are grounds for supposing that the accused, if left at liberty, will evade investigation or trial, impede the establishment of the truth or engage in criminal activity, the investigator, prosecutor and the court have the right to impose one of the following preventive measures on the accused: a written undertaking not to abscond; personal surety or surety by a social organization or labour collective; detention in custody; placement under the supervision of parents, guardians or curators, or, for pupils in children's establishments, placement under the supervision of the administration (art. 84 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).
109. In cases involving minors, the preliminary investigation must determine the standards of living and upbringing, and the causes and conditions that contributed to the minor's commission of the crime, and so on. Where there is evidence that the minor is mentally retarded, but for some reason other than mental illness, it must be established whether he or she was fully aware of the significance of his or her acts; for this purpose inquiries are made of the minor's parents, teachers and educators and other persons able to provide the requisite information, essential documents are obtained and other investigations are carried out (art. 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).
110. On completion of the preliminary investigation, when the minor is given access to the case file, the accused's legal representative must be allowed to be present.
111. Article 283 of the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that representatives of labour collectives and teaching staff shall take part in the court examination of cases involving minors. With the permission of the court, representatives of social organizations may take part in the examination of evidence.
112. Convicted minors serve their sentence in educational-labour colonies (art. 12 of the Correctional-labour Code) separately from adult prisoners (art. 18 of the Code of Criminal Procedures). Security measures, such as the use of straitjackets and weapons, may not be employed against minors (arts. 35 and 36 of the Correctional-labour Code. In addition, under-age prisoners are provided with improved living conditions and better standards of food. By decision of the medical committee, such persons may be permitted to receive additional food parcels (art. 60 of the Correctional-labour Code). They are also permitted to purchase food products and essential articles not only with money earned at the place of detention, but also with money sent to them (art. 24 of the Correctional-labour Code).
113. Minors may also be sentenced to correctional work without deprivation of freedom. Such sentences are served in the offender's place of work or district of residence, taking account of his or her physical capacities and, where possible, special skills (art. 96 of the Correctional-labour Code).
114. On release from a place of detention, minors are returned to their parents or the persons acting in loco parentis. When this is not possible, the commission for minors' affairs in the minor's former place of domicile takes measures to provide him or her with accommodation, employment appropriate to his or her qualifications, and education or training.
115. In exceptional circumstances, when return of the minor to the former place of domicile would be inconsistent with his or her welfare, he or she is settled in the same place as the educational-labour colony (art. 106 of the Correctional-labour Code). Minors who do not have parents are, when necessary, placed in boarding schools or other children's establishments or, in the manner prescribed by law, in the care of a guardian (art. 109 of the Correctional-labour Code). To consolidate the results of the rehabilitation and to prevent the recurrence of offences, counsellors may be appointed for the minors.
[Further information in State party report relating to the administration of juvenile justice]
14. Apart from physical health problems, the moral and mental health of children is a major problem facing Belarus in the changed economic and social conditions. The number of offences committed by minors is increasing. During a seven-month period in 1992, 4,373 offences were committed by minors, which marks a 19 per cent increase over the same period of 1991. The nature of prostitution is also changing, and there are now 45 registered under-age prostitutes. The growing wave of drug and toxic substance abuse, which affects principally young people, is a serious threat.
15. The level of criminality among minors is being affected by phenomena that are new to Belarus. The number of young people who are neither undergoing education nor in employment is rising at a disastrous rate, and this problem is compounded by the lack of structured leisure activities and the fall in living standards.
GENERAL MEASURES OF IMPLEMENTATION
21. On 28 July 1990, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by the Supreme Council of Belarus, and this has necessitated the adoption of a number of measures aimed at establishing the legal machinery for implementing the provisions of the Convention. These measures include the enactment of new legislation, the amendment of existing legislation, and the drafting of normative and legal documents governing the activities of State bodies responsible for protecting the rights and interests of children.
22. Among the new laws already in force which are directly relevant to children are: the Education Act (October 1991), the Act on General Principles of State Youth Policy (April 1992) and the Act on State Allowances for Families bringing up Children (October 1992). Matters relevant to children are also dealt with in other laws, including the Act on the Social Protection of Invalids (November 1991), the Citizenship Act (October 1991), the Culture Act (June 1991), the Universal Military Duty and Military Service Act (October 1992), the Code on Marriage and the Family (June 1969), the Labour Code (June 1972), the Housing Code (December 1983), the Criminal Code (December 1960), the Code of Criminal Procedure (December 1960), the Correctional-labour Code (June 1971) and the Civil Code (June 1964).
23. In addition, in November 1992 the Parliament of Belarus passed the Rights of the Child Act at its first reading. Article 2 of this Act is entitled "Legislation on the rights of the child" and provides that the Act is, "after the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, the basis of other legislation relating to the rights and interests of children". The adoption of the Act will require amendments to existing legislation (the Code on Marriage and the Family, the Labour Code, Civil Code, Criminal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Housing Code, and so on). Lastly, a review is planned for the near future of legislative and normative documents that either amplify particular provisions of the Rights of the Child Act or are of importance in their own right.
24. At the local level, the rights and interests of children are protected by the guardianship and curatorship bodies under district, municipal and regional executive committees of the Councils of People's Deputies, and by the Procurator's Office and the courts. At the national level, the State's efforts to protect children's interests are coordinated by the Belarusian Supreme Council's standing Commission for Family and Youth Affairs. The Rights of the Child Act includes specific provisions on the creation of a system for protecting children's interests. For example, article 4, "Bodies responsible for protecting the rights and interests of the child", states that "the rights of the child shall be protected by bodies set up for this purpose within the framework of State power and by the Procurator's Office and courts". It also emphasizes, fully in line with the terms of the Convention, that these agencies shall be guided in their actions by the "overriding need to protect the interests of the child". Article 36, "Monitoring application of the Act", places responsibility for coordinating the efforts of State and public organizations in defence of the rights and interests of the child on the Ministry of Education of Belarus.
Source: Initial reports of States parties due in 1992: Belarus, UN Doc. CRC/C/3/Add.14, paras. 14-15, 21-24, 49-52, 103-115 (29 June 1993)