Murder of CEC member: new investigative system at work
On August 8th, Belarus learned about the tragic death of Central Election Commission member, 54-year-old Svetlana Khinevich. On August 4th, she was found dead in her apartment with multiple stabs.
The investigation into Khinevich murder is carried out exclusively by the two newly created law enforcement agencies - the Investigative Committee and the State Committee for Forensic Examinations. Belarus’ oldest law enforcement agency - Internal Affairs Ministry - was excluded from the inquest.
The murder case of Svetlana Khinevich demonstrates the new law enforcement system’s capabilities. The Investigative Committee was founded in 2012, and the State Committee for Forensic Examination in July 2013. Investigation and forensic expertise departments were dissolved in the country’s oldest law enforcement agency - MIA.
Svetlana Khinevich worked as Personnel Department Head at the Minsk-based ‘Crystal’ Plant and was a Central Elections Commission member. Before 2011, she worked as Personnel and Ideology Head at the President Administration Management of Affairs Chief Economic Management Directorate.
Investigative Committee representative said that the murder was a domestic violence case, unrelated to her professional and social activities. The suspect, a drug addict man, was detained and examined.
The criminal investigation into the Khinevich murder was instituted by the Investigative Committee and the State Committee for Forensic Examination conducted the forensic expertise. Both agencies were set up by President Lukashenko and managed by descendants from the Prosecutor’s Office, not from the Interior Ministry. Through these agencies the ruling group has strengthened the control over pre-trial investigation in general and in this particular case.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.