House of Representatives passes amnesty bill

The House of Representatives on Friday gave first- and second-reading approvals to a draft amnesty law that is expected to apply to more than 6,500 people.

While introducing the bill to the lower parliamentary chamber, Interior Minister Yury Karayew said that the law would be implemented for nine months, not for six months as originally projected.

Speaking about those convicted for drug offenses, Mr. Karayew said that people sentenced to prison under Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the Criminal Code’s Article 328 would have their terms reduced by one year. Drug offenders who had not yet turned 18 when they committed their crimes would see their prison terms cut by two years, he said.

The bill would grant early release from correctional institutions to under-18-year-old people, pregnant women, mothers and single fathers of under-18-year-old children, people with first- and second-degree disabilities, pension-age convicts, those suffering from tuberculosis, second-, third- and fourth-stage cancer, third- and fourth-stage HIV, those who served the Soviet Union in armed conflicts abroad, Chernobyl-affected people, and those who received injuries or became seriously ill while doing compulsory military service.

These categories of convicts would also be exempted from serving non-custodial sentences.

The amnesty law would apply to those who have fully repaid the damage caused by their crimes and have a record of good behavior, according to the minister.

Mr. Karayew warned that no amnesty would be granted to those convicted of corruption crimes, murder, rape, child sexual abuse, high treason, espionage, abuse of office or power, exceeding authority, and inaction by a person in authority.

Those convicted of defaming the president, violating regulations governing mass gatherings and receiving gratuitous foreign aid in violation of regulations would not be amnestied, too.

Mr. Karayew said that this year’s amnesty would apply to some 6,000 people in prison and to 685 people serving "restricted freedom" terms at open-type correctional institutions.

The new amnesty program is expected to be implemented this year on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Belarus from the Nazi invaders.

This will be the 15th amnesty campaign since Belarus acquired independence in 1991.

About 1,800 convicts were released from prison and some 2,000 others had their prison sentences reduced by one year under the previous amnesty program, which was adopted in Belarus in 2015 on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union`s victory over Nazi Germany in the 1941-45 Great Patriotic War.