The History of the Development of Justice Institutions

The formation of the organs of power and administration of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic determined the paths to the formation of justice.

At I Congress of Soviets of Workers, Peasants and Red Army Soldiers Deputies of Byelorussia held on February 2-4, 1919, the Constitution of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was adopted, which established the supremacy of power of the congress of Soviets of Byelorussia, and during congresses – the Central Executive Committee (CEC). In accordance with the Constitution, the CEC of Byelorussia was the highest legislative, administrative and controlling body.

At its first post-Congress meeting on February 5, 1919 the Central Executive Committee formed the Big and Small Presidium. All the Commissioners were members of the Big Presidium, and this body was actually the Council of Commissioners – the Government of the Republic. The list of commissioners was approved, in which Getner A.H. Khristoforovich was listed as the Commissioner of Justice.

At the same time Byelorussia pursued a policy of contingence of power and the unification of the territories of Byelorussia and Lithuania. In connection with the formation of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Lithuania and Byelorussia on February 6, 1919 questions of justice were assigned to the People’s Commissariat of Justice Litbel formed in March 1919, and on the territory of the Minsk province – the Minsk Provincial Department of Justice.

After the White-Polish invaders were expelled from Byelorussia activity of People’s Commissariat of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Belarus resumed, gradually changing its status and subordination: from July 1920 – as the Department of Justice of the Minsk Province Revolutionary Committee, from August 1, 1920 – the Department of Justice of Military Revolutionary Committee of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia, from August 26, 1920 – Commissariat of Justice of the Military Revolutionary Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia.

II Congress of Soviets of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Byelorussia, held on December 14-20, 1920 amended the Constitution of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia, establishing the formation of the Council of People’s Commissars by the Central Executive Committee of Byelorussia. The Council of People’s Commissars owned the general administration of the affairs of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia, which was carried out through the creation of 15 people’s commissariats, including the People’s Commissariat of Justice. With each people’s commissar, collegiums were formed under his chairmanship, whose members were approved by the Council of People’s Commissars.

Tasks and structure of the People’s Commissariat of Justice were most fully and specifically defined in the Regulation on the People’s Commissariat of Justice of the SSRB in 1922 for the first time.

The multitasking functionality of the People’s Commissariat of Justice determined the ramified structure of the judiciary bodies.

The composition of the People’s Commissariat of Justice included the General Division, the Division of the Protection of Revolutionary Legality, the Legislative-Codification Division, the Corrective-Labor Division.

The main functions of the Division of the Protection of Revolutionary Legality were the organization of the prosecution, monitoring of inquiry and investigation, preliminary consideration and submission of conclusions in cases, sent to the Supreme Tribunal (both, in the cassation and the Supreme Judicial Control), consideration of complaints on illegal actions and prosecution, monitoring of places of detention.

Prosecutors from personnel of this division headed the Supreme Tribunal, the Revolutionary Tribunal, the Council of People’s Judges.

During 1922 the structure of the justice bodies underwent some changes: the Council of People’s Judges and the Revolutionary Tribunal were merged into a single High Court of the Republic, a Department of the Prosecutor’s Office was established under the People’s Commissariat of Justice.

The Department of Cults was formed in the office of the People’s Commissariat of Justice, Division of the Notary became an independent structural unit. The Commissioner of Justice simultaneously became the Prosecutor of the Republic.

By the Resolution of the III session of the Central Executive Committee of the BSSR of the VI convocation dated November 3, 1924 the General Regulation on the People’s Commissariats of the BSSR and the Regulations on the certain People’s Commissariats, including the Regulation on the People’s Commissariat of Justice of the BSSR, were approved and put into effect.

The structure of the People’s Commissariat of Justice included the Supreme Court of the Republic and the Highest Court of the Republic. The organization and instruction of the judiciary was carried out by the Supreme and Highest Courts in accordance with the Regulation on the Judiciary under the general guidance of the People’s Commissariat of Justice.

A little later the All-Belarusian Association of Defenders officially entered the system of the People’s Commissariat of Justice.

As a result of a survey of the work of the middle and top levels of the Prosecutor’s Office and the judicial investigative bodies of the People’s Commissariat of Justice, which was carried out by the People’s Commissariat of the Workers and Peasants Inspection in February-March 1928, the People’s Commissar of the Workers and Peasants Inspectorate of the USSR decided to liquidate the People’s Commissariat of Justice.

Such an initiative was not supported by the highest government bodies, and on June 15, 1929 the Resolution of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the BSSR on the approval of the Regulation on the People’s Commissariat of Justice of the BSSR was adopted, which determined the People’s Commissariat of the BSSR as part of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic and with it investigators for important cases, Supreme Court and Legal Advice. The Regulation on Commissariat of 1929 was in force for ten years.

In connection with the transformation of bodies of governmental authority and governance, as well as with the adoption in August 1938 of the Law of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR “On Judicial System of the USSR, Union and Autonomous Republics” a draft was prepared and a new Regulation on the People’s Commissariat of Justice of the BSSR was approved, confirmed by the Resolution of the Council of People’s Commissars of the BSSR dated October 8, 1939.

The People’s Commissariat of Justice of the BSSR was entrusted with the administration of the departments of justice under the regional Councils of Deputies of Workers, the organization of the courts activities, the administration of the activities of notary bodies, the organization and administration of advocacy, training and advanced training of personnel of judiciary, of court, of prosecutor’s office, of notary, the bar and the arbitration, systematization and preparation of materials on codification of legislation of the Byelorussian SSR.

In June 1941 in connection with the Nazi occupation of the territory of Byelorussia the People’s Commissariat of Justice of the BSSR was evacuated from Minsk to Moscow, where it continued to operate.

On the basis of the Law of the USSR “On Transformation of the Council of People’s Commissars of the SSR into the Council of Ministers of the USSR and the Councils of People’s Commissars of the Union and Autonomous Republics into the Councils of Ministers of the Union and Autonomous Republics” by Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the BSSR dated March 26, 1946 the People’s Commissariat of Justice of the BSSR was transformed into the Ministry Justice of the BSSR.

The Regulation of 1939, regulating the activities of the Ministry of Justice of the BSSR, remained practically unchanged, while maintaining the basic functions of the ministry. The expansion of the functions of the Ministry of Justice of the BSSR occurred in accordance with the Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the BSSR of April 25, 1953 No. 500 “On State Arbitration under the Council of Ministers of the BSSR”, when the State Arbitration was transferred to the ministry.

In July 1953 the new structure and staff of the Ministry of Justice of the BSSR was approved. Besides previously existing structural units of the ministry, it included the Department of Correctional Labor Camps and Colonies (on the Union budget) and the State Arbitration (on the basis of management). The bodies directly subordinate to the Ministry of Justice included twelve Departments of the Ministry of Justice of the BSSR at the regional Councils of Workers’ Deputies (Baranovichi, Bobruisk, Brest, Vitebsk, Gomel, Grodno, Mogilev, Molodechno, Minsk, Pinsk, Polessk, Polotsk), the same number Courts and Presidiums of Bar Associations, permanent 3-month long advance training courses for enforcement agents and secretaries of people’s courts in Minsk and the Scientific Research Forensic Laboratory in Minsk.

On the basis of the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR dated August 4, 1956 “On Expansion of Rights of Territorial, Regional Courts and Abolition of Departments of Ministries of the Union Republics at Territorial, Regional Councils of Deputies of Workers” the Council of Ministers of the BSSR issued the Resolution dated September 7, 1956 No. 541, according to which all departments of the Ministry of Justice of the BSSR under the regional Soviets of Workers’ Deputies were eliminated.

The structure of the Ministry of Justice of the BSSR, according to this resolution, consisted of the leadership, department of judiciary, personnel division, codification division, notary division, division on advocacy, financial and economic division and secretariat. A year later the ministry was entrusted with the leadership of offices of acts of civil status registry and the corresponding division was organized in structure of the Ministry of Justice, which two months later was merged with notary division.

In order to provide judicial and investigative bodies of the republic with qualified forensic expertise and further development of scientific research in the field of forensic science and forensics the decision on organization of a scientific research institute of forensic examination of the Ministry of Justice of the BSSR at the base of the Minsk Research Forensic Laboratory was made by  the Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the Byelorussian SSR dated November 18, 1958 No. 750.

Despite the fairly streamlined system of the Ministry of Justice, a wide range of its activities, by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the BSSR dated February 20, 1960 the Ministry of Justice of the BSSR was eliminated. Its functions in administration the district (city) people’s and regional courts, state notary offices, as well as in maintaining judicial statistics were assigned to the Supreme Court of the BSSR.

In accordance with the said Decree, the Council of Ministers of the Byelorussia SSR adopted the Resolution dated March 9, 1960 No. 116 by it established the formation of the Legal Commission under the Council of Ministers of the Byelorussian SSR. The main task of the Legal Commission was to carry out work, related to the codification and systematization of the legislation of the Byelorussian SSR, as well as to develop, on instructions from the Government, and preliminary consideration of draft legislative acts and decisions of the Government, submitted to the Council of Ministers of the BSSR on normative issues.

In April 1963 the Legal Commission was entrusted with the methodological leadership of registry offices in the territory of the Byelorussian SSR.

Pursuant to the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Byelorussian SSR dated February 15, 1965 the Legal Commission under the Council of Ministers of the BSSR began to exercise leadership and control over the activities of bar associations in the Byelorussian SSR, advocacy division was established in its structure, in connection with which amendments were made to the Regulation on Advocacy of the Byelorussian SSR.

The formation of the Union-Republican Ministry of Justice of the BSSR, divisions of justice in the regions and the abolition of the Legal Commission under the Council of Ministers of the BSSR were considered useful by the Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the BSSR dated September 17, 1970 No. 290 “On Measures to Improve the Work of Judicial and Prosecutor bodies”, enacted for implementation of the decision of the Central Committee of the CPSU and of the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

The Ministry of Justice was re-created on the basis of the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the BSSR dated November 5, 1970 No. 32 “On Creation of the Union-Republican Ministry of Justice of the Byelorussian SSR”.

In accordance with the Regulation of the Ministry of Justice, approved by the Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the BSSR dated October 19, 1972, the main functions of the ministry were defined as follows:

  • all-round strengthening of socialist legal order;
  • provision of organizational management of the courts;
  • systematization and preparation of proposals for the codification of legislation;
  • improvement of the activities of notary, civil registry offices, advocacy, forensic institutions;
  • improvement of legal work in the national economy;
  • propaganda of legal knowledge among the population;
  • facilitating the development of legal science;
  • provision of institutions and organizations of the system of the ministry and the judiciary with qualified personnel.

In November 1976 due to the start of the preparation and publication of the Set of Laws of the Byelorussian SSR, the Ministry of Justice was entrusted with the elaboration of content of the Set of Laws of the Byelorussian SSR and the responsibility for the quality of preparation and completeness of the legal acts placed in the Set. The work on the fulfillment of this function was carried out by the Ministry of Justice until the suspension of the work on updating the Set of Laws of the Byelorussian SSR in 1989.

On the basis of law-drafting department two departments were formed, which specialized in the sphere of state and social building legislation and economic legislation. Issues of legal propaganda, notary, civil status registry offices and advocacy were referred to the competence of the Department of Legal Services for Citizens and Organizations. The Department for Public Associations and the Department for Legal Support of External Relations were created within the structure. Besides this, the Department for the Support of the Activities of the Courts, the Planning and Finance Department, the Personnel Department and the General Department were included in the structure. The Scientific Research Institute of Criminology, Forensic Science and Forensics Problems and the Belinyurkollegiya were under the Ministry of Justice.

The same Regulation instructed the Ministry of Justice to create a Republican Legal Information Center in 1992-1995.

The changes predetermined the adoption of the new Regulation on the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus, approved by the Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus dated November 25, 1992 No. 708, the Ministry system included:

  • Departments of Justice of the Executive Committees of the Regional and Minsk City Councils of People’s Deputies;
  • state notary offices;
  • Research Institute of Criminology, Forensic Science and Forensics Problems;
  • Specialized Bar Association of the Republic of Belarus − Belinyurkollegiya.

Along with the previously defined, new functions of the Ministry were formulated:

  • legal support of external relations and legal protection of the interests of the Republic of Belarus, its citizens and organizations abroad;
  • state registration of public associations and monitoring of compliance by these associations with their charters;
  • coordination of the activities of the executive bodies of state power on the implementation of judicial reform and the implementation of legal policy.

Since August 1993 the functions of the Ministry of Justice have been supplemented by licensing certain types of professional legal activity and state registration of departmental normative acts.

In order to create a unified state system of legal information and as implementation of an order from the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus, the Ministry of Justice formed the Republican Center for Legal Information in the structure of the Scientific Research Institute of Criminology, Forensic Science and Forensic Problems. In order to promptly provide state bodies, business entities and citizens with reliable and complete legal information, work was undertaken to form of a single standard databank of legal information on paper and in electronic form at basis of the center. In accordance with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus dated June 30, 1997 No. 338 the Republican Legal Information Center was transformed into the National Legal Information Center of the Republic of Belarus.

Changes in the current legislation of the Republic of Belarus necessitated the adoption of a new Regulation on the Ministry of Justice, which was approved by Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus dated December 1, 1995 No. 656. The system of the Ministry of Justice included departments of justice of the regional and Minsk City executive committees, state notary offices, and Research Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science.

From January 1997 to October 2001, the Committee on Copyright and Related Rights was within the system of the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice pursued a unified state policy on copyright and related rights in the Republic.

From January 2001 to June 2013 the Ministry of Justice included the Republican Labor Arbitration. The Ministry of Justice was entrusted with the function of pursuing a unified state policy on the settlement of collective labor disputes.

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