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Guide to Legal Research in Belarus

 

By Tatyana Khodosevich & Nadia Shalygina

 

Published April 2005
Read the update!

 

Tatyana Khodosevich is the Chief librarian of the Service Department of the National Library of the Republic of Belarus. She is а graduate of the Belarusian University of Culture, Faculty of Librarianship and Bibliography, Minsk.

 

Nadia Shalygina is the director of the International Law Library. She is also a graduate of the Belarusian University of Culture, Faculty of Librarianship and Bibliography, Minsk.

 

 

Update to an article previously published on LLRX.com on February 1, 2002

<http://www.llrx.com/features/belarus.htm>

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

The Government

The Presidency

The Legal System

The Judicial System

The structure of the legal documentation in the Republic of Belarus

Legal Databases

Internet Resources

 

 

Introduction

 

The Republic of Belarus is а unitary state in Eastern Europe. It gained independence after the collapse of the USSR. The Declaration of the state sovereignty was signed the 27th of July, 1990. The Constitution was adopted on 15 March, 1994. In November 1996, the presidential variant of the new edition of the Constitution, providing an essential expansion of powers for the head of state, was accepted. The form of government in Belarus is the super-presidential republic. The head of state is the President of the Republic, who is elected to the office for a term of five years.

 

 

The Government

 

The legislative branch consists of a bicameral parliament – the National Assembly (Natsionalnoye Sobranie) of the Republic of Belarus. The two bodies are the House of Representatives (Palata Predstaviteley) and the Council of the Republic (Sovet Respubliсi). The House of the Representatives is made up of 110 deputies elected by a system of direct representation, while the Council of the Republic is the chamber of territorial representation. The term length for members of parliament is 4 years.

 

The legislative process in Belarus reflects the ideas of "rationalised parliamentarism", borrowed from the French Constitution of 1958. The right of the legislative initiative belongs to the President and Parliament.

 

The government directs the executive branch in Belarus. The Council of Ministers is the main body of state management. The government is accountable to the President and to the Parliament.

 

The chiefs of local executive bodies are nominated and are exempted from their posts by the President.

 

 

The Presidency

 

In addition to the Parliament, the President and the Administration of the President carry out the legislative authority. The powers of the President of the Republic of Belarus are among the widest-reaching in the world. The President declares referendums, extraordinary elections, dismisses chambers of Parliament in cases stipulated by the Constitution, and nominates, with the consent of the Council of Republic, the Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, the General Prosecutor, and the Chairman of the National Bank. The President independently nominates and releases from the office the Chairman of the State Control Committee, etc.

 

The greatest powers of the President are in the field of legislation. The 1996 Constitution of the Republic of Belarus expanded the competence of the head of state in law-making activities. The President issues Decrees (valid as law), Edicts, and Orders, which take obligatory force in all territories of the Republic. The vast reach of the law-making powers of the President casts a shadow over the representative body — the Parliament — and consequently, removes the citizens from the process of the proposal and enactment of new laws. The President exercises complete control over the executive branch of Belarus. Also, as the head of state, he exercises а significant influence on the judicial authority. He nominates (with the consent of the Council of the Republic) the Chiefs of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Supreme Economic Court, along with the judges of the Supreme and Supreme Economic Court, and some judges of the Constitutional Court.

 

 

The Legal System

 

The Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were а great achievement of Belarusian Law. They were written during the 16th century in Belarusian language and they are among the first European constitutions and codes. They have served later as model to other European nations. The Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania are considered to be one of the main treasures of Belarusian, Lithuanian and Polish culture.

 

The modern legal system of the Republic of Belarus is included in the Romano-German legal family, forming together with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) the independent "Eurasian" group.

 

The judicial precedent, like in the case other countries of the Romano-Germanic family, is not а source of the law. However, explanations of Plenums of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Economic Court on application of the legislation are obligatory for courts and bodies using the law. Closely related to judicial precedents are the legal acts of the Constitutional Court.

 

International treaties are also an important source of taw. The Republic of Belarus recognises the principles of international law and conforms to them in its legislation. However, the Constitution does not speak about the priority of ratified international acts above the laws of the Republic.

 

 

The Judicial System

 

The system of courts in Belarus is based on the territorial principle and specialisation.

 

The Supreme Court carries out justice and supervises the activities of general courts of the Republic.

 

The economic courts carry out justice in the field of the economic relations, with the purposes of protecting the rights and interests of corporations and individuals. The Supreme Economic Court is the main court in this branch.

 

Constitutional control is carried out by the Constitutional Court. Legal acts or their separate provisions which are considered unconstitutional lose force in the pyramid of order determined by the law.

 

The supreme body of self-management of Belarusian judges is the Congress of the Judges, which is convoked at least once every four years.

 

Lawyers and public advocacy groups provide legal help to citizens and organisations. A lawyer can only practice as а Bar Association member and by first obtaining а license.

 

The main law-enforcement institute in Belarus is the State Prosecutor’s Office. It executes the control of legality and the control of conformity to the law of the judicial decisions on civil, criminal and other cases.

 

The State Control Committee carries out the control of execution of the state’s budget, the use of state property, the execution of the acts of the President, the parliament and the government, which regulates financial and tax relations.

 

 

The structure of the legal documentation in the Republic of Belarus

 

The National Centre of the Legal Information (NCLI) is the state institute that publishes the official legal documentation of the Republic of Belarus, both in print and electronically. According to the Decree of the President, entitled “About the order of distribution of the legal information in the Republic of Belarus”, the activity of distribution of the legal information is rigidly regulated and supervised. All commercial publishing houses and private firms that publish commercial legal databases must have а license and publish information obtained only from an official source.

 

The main sources of law in the Republic of Belarus are:

·       The Constitution;

·       Codes;

·       Decrees and Edicts of the President;

·       Laws;

·       Decisions of the Government and Ministries.

 

The Constitution is the supreme law of the country. It has the supreme juridical power in the republic. All laws, decrees, decision and other legislation acts issued on the base and correspond to the Constitution.

 

There are constitutional laws and common laws. Constitutional laws are legislative acts like the “Declaration of the state sovereignty” from the 25th of August 1991; laws that enact changes and explain the Constitution, etc. Sometimes they have even more juridical power than the Constitution (for example, Declarations). They are enacted by 2/3 of the full complement of the both chambers of the Parliament/Natsionalnoye Sobranie of the Republic of Belarus (House of Representatives/Palata Predstaviteley and Council of Republic/Sovet Respublici). Constitutional laws, like other laws, are published in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus” (official journal), “Zvyazda”, and “Narodnaya gazeta” (official newspapers).

 

The Belarusian legal system has 22 codes (site in Russian), which regulate all spheres of life: the Civil Code, Code of Civil Procedure, Criminal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Commercial Code, Code of Commercial Procedure, Investment Code, Labor Code, Bank Code, Family Code, Electoral Code, Administrative Code, Custom Code, Code of Land, Code of Interior Water Transport, Forest Code, Code of Commercial Navigation, Air Code, House Code, Code of Depths (subterranean mining), and the Tax Code. The most important codes of Belarus are based on the modelling legislation approved by Inter Parliamentary Assembly of the States of the participants of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). They all have the same juridical power in their own fields. All codes are published in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus” (the Official Journal).

 

Laws (see also http://president.gov.by/eng/map2/state/law) have the same power as codes, but, for example, the Civil Code has more juridical power as any legislation act in the field of civil law, the same is true with the Criminal Code, and so on. Laws can be adopted by the Parliament (Natsionalnoye Sobranie) and through referendum. The official publications are in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus” (official journal), “Zvyazda”, and “Narodnaya gazeta” (official newspapers). Before 2001, the official publications were in the “Register of the Supreme Soviet/ Natsionalnoye Sobranie of the Republic of Belarus”.

 

Parliament also enacts Regulation of the Parliament and Decisions of the chambers of the Parliament (both sites in Russian). The Regulation defines the structure and activity of the Parliament, while the Decisions are such acts of legislation as appointment of a referendum and the date of the President election; the resignation of the President and giving consent about Prime-Minister appointment; a vote of no-confidence in the Government; etc. They are enacted about common questions of the state government and control and published in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus” (official journal), “Zvyazda”, and e“Narodnaya gazeta” (official newspapers). Before 2001 the official publications were in the “Register of the Supreme Soviet/ Natsionalnoye Sobranie of the Republic of Belarus”.

 

Decrees of the President (site in Russian) are valid as laws. These decrees are issued under the Constitution 1996, in accordance with special powers granted to the President by the Parliament. They are published in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus” and “Sovietskaya Belorussia”.

 

Edicts of the President (site in Russian) recognize the President’s powers (authority). Some edicts are not sources of law, such as an appointment to office, giving honorary titles (degrees) and so on. They are published in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus”, “Sovietskaya Belorussia”.

In 1997, they were published as the “Collection of the Actual Decrees and Edicts of the President of the Republic of Belarus 1994 – 1997” and in 2000, they were published as “Collection of the Actual Decrees and Edicts of the President of the Republic of Belarus 1997 – 2000” – the official publications of the president.

 

International treaties are also important sources of law. The Republic of Belarus recognizes all principles of the international law and provides conformity with them in its legislation. According to the national legislation the Republic of Belarus doesn’t conclude international treaties that contradict Constitution and national legislation. International treaties are ratified by the Parliament (if it’s mentioned in the treaty) and by the President. Inter-government treaties are ratified by the Council of Ministers. The official publication of the international treaty is always with the law that ratified it and is published in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus” (official journal), “Zvyazda”, and “Narodnaya gazeta” (official newspapers). Before 2001 the official publications were in the “Register of the Supreme Soviet/ Natsionalnoye Sobranie of the Republic of Belarus”.

 

Decisions of the Government (site in Russian) are the acts of legislation regarding general questions of management, economy, culture, science, etc., under the Constitution of 1996. They are published in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus”, “Respublica”. Before 2001, the official publications were in the “Collection of the Decisions of the Government of the Republic of Belarus” and “Collection of the Decrees and Edicts of the President and Decisions of the Government of the Republic of Belarus”

 

Orders and Instructions (directions) (in Russian) of the ministries, government committees, and departments include the acts of legislation that regulate the internal and external governmental relations. Some of the ministries/government committees have power to issue decisions for all government bodies (such as Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Defense, etc.). They are published in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus” and “Respublica”. Before 2001, the official publications were in the “Collection of the Decisions of the Government of the Republic of Belarus” and “Collection of the Decrees and Edicts of the President and Decisions of the Government of the Republic of Belarus”

 

Decisions of the Constitutional Court are made about the constitutionality of international treaties, national legislation, and other acts of legislation. Decisions are published in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus”, “Zvyazda”, “Narodnaya gazeta” and in the “Bulletin of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus”.

 

Decisions and the explanations of Plenums of the Supreme Court (in Russian) are published in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus”, “Sovietskaya Belorussia”, and in the “Sudovy vestnik”.

 

Decisions and the explanations of Plenums of the Supreme Economic Court are published in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus”, “Sovietskaya Belorussia”, and in the “Bulletin of the Supreme Economic Court of the Republic of Belarus”.

 

Acts of legislation of the local authorities (in Russian) regulate economic, political, cultural life in the distinct regions (6 total) and districts of Belarus. They issue decisions and publish them in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus” and local official newspapers (for example in Minsk – “Minskaya Pravda”).

 

The President of the Republic of Belarus has the right to abolish decisions of the Government (Council of Ministers), the National Bank, and local authorities. The Council of Ministers has the right to abolish orders and instructions of the state bodies (ministries, committees, departments).

 

Acts of the State Prosecutor’s Office include:

·       protest (against acts of legislation or activity of persons that don’t correspond to the Constitution or legislation and breaks the law);

·       declaration/statement (elimination of the infringement);

·       decision (to institute proceedings, etc.);

·       order/direction;

·       official warning.

 

The acts of the legislation of the prosecutor’s office are not sources of law. However, acts of the State Prosecutor are normative (sources of law) and are published in the “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus”.

 

The main source of the legislation about normative acts is the law “About acts of legislation/normative acts” from the 10th of January 2000.

 

Sources of publication

 

Official:

·       The “National Register of the Legal Acts of the Republic of Belarus”;

·       Sovietskaya Belorussia”;

·       “Respublica”;

·       Zvyazda”;

·       “Narodnaya gazeta”:

·       local official newspapers.

 

Others:

 

·       Journals of the state bodies (“Bulletin of the Ministry of Tax and Dues of the Republic of Belarus” – orders and instructions of the ministry; “Tamozenny vestnik” – State Customs Committee; “Law of Belarus” – Ministry of Justice; “Bulletin of the Supreme Economic Court of the Republic of Belarus” – court decisions, explanations of Plenums of the Supreme Economic Court; “Bulletin of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus” - court decisions of the Constitutional Court; “Sudovy vestnik” - court decisions, explanations of Plenums of the Supreme Court, etc.);

·       Practical journals for lawyers (“Lawyer”, “Justice of Belarus”, “Industry-Trade Law”, “Bulletin of the legal information”, etc.);

·       other professional and popular journals, which include legislation (“Chief Accountant”, etc.).

·       The National Center of the Legal Information (NCLI) is the state body that publishes official legal documentation in the Republic of Belarus, both in print and electronically. All commercial publishing houses and firms must have a license and publish information obtained only from an official source.

 

 

Legal Databases

 

·       ETALON - Belarus Legislation Database – the official database in the Republic of Belarus is produced by the National Center of the Legal Information (NCLI).

·       JUSIAS – by the information-legal agency “Registr”. To work with this database you need to have password. Fee-based database.

·       Consultant – by the “Yurespectr”, it’s the department of the Russian firm. Only information about the firm and its’ products. To work with database you need to buy it.

·       Expertcenter – by “ExpertCenter”. Also only the information about the products of the firm. Fee-based database.

 

 

Internet Resources

 

·       The National Legal Internet Portal of the Republic of Belarus . This portal contains all information about the legal system of the Republic, legal acts, information about state superior bodies, ministries and state committees, region administration bodies, and much other useful information. This is the main Internet legal resource of the Republic of Belarus and it has connection with all the others legal Internet resources of the Republic.

·       The official site of the National Center of the Legal Information.

·       The Internet version of the ETALON Belarus Legislation Database provides access to the actual Belarusian legislation.

·       Virtual Guide to Belarus

·       Belarusian World Wide Web

·       Official Presidential site

 

Practically all Belarusian newspapers and journals have their own Internet sites, but they are all in Russian.