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I BELIEVE BECAUSE I AM LOYAL

At the end of November D. Konovalov and V. Kovalev accused of organizing an act of terror in Minsk underground were sentenced to the supreme penalty – execution. Just the way it should be in a split society, public opinion concerning the complicity of the persons under sentence of death in the act of terror in Minsk underground was divided: 37% believed the guilt of the sentenced, 43.4% did not believe it and 19.6% found it difficult to answer. In September only 21.2% of respondents agreed with the investigators’ theory that the crime had been committed by a lone terrorist and his accomplice backed up by no one, another 32.4% supposed that they had committed the crime, but had had instigators. 36.7% did not believe the accused were guilty.

Attitude to the investigators’ theory turned out to be extremely politicized (Table 1). If among supporters of the authority 50.6% agreed with it, among respondents in opposition – only 9% did. In full conformity with the socio-demographic structure of supporters and opponents of the authorities, women, elderly people and those whose education had limited itself to primary school believed the official line to a greater extent.

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “In Minsk Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalev suspected of carrying out an act of terror in the underground on April 11 were tried in court. The prosecutor demanded the death penalty for them. Do you believe that they are the ones who have committed the crime?” depending on socio-demographic characteristics and attitude to the authorities, %

Variant of answer

Yes

No

Gender:
Male

30.1

50.7

Female

42.6

37.3

Age:
18-29

28.0

50.9

30-39

27.3

51.9

40-49

36.0

43.8

50-59

41.4

41.4

60 +

50.7

30.5

Education:
Primary

67.4

20.0

Incomplete secondary

47.7

31.8

Secondary

36.4

45.2

Vocational

32.4

46.6

Higher

31.1

46.6

Attitude to the authorities:
Consider myself in opposition

9.0

77.3

Do not consider myself in opposition

50.6

31.3

It should be mentioned that the level of trust in the judicial system is rather low in the society. In June, 2009 26.8% of Belarusians believed in equality of all the citizens before the law, and 32.5% – in the possibility for people holding senior positions to evade penalty. At that more than half of respondents (55.6%) supposed that those who had money and connections could also escape punishment for crimes. In December, 2010 speaking to the delegates of the IV All-Belarusian People’s Assembly A. Lukashenko had to acknowledge the fact that such structure of answers had been engendered not by the bias of sociologists, but by the reality: “Quite often we hear complaints about judicial agencies: “they are unjust”, “things are all wrong”… You know, it is bad when law-enforcement agencies and especially law-courts as the top of the pyramid are mistaken. This is people’s fate. But it is still worse when having made a mistake and later having seen it judicial agencies do not want to correct the mistake. It is inadmissible! More and more I, as the head of state constitutionally eligible to coordinate the branches of government, have to address such questions as the final authority. And you know, I will not tell you whether it happened often or sometimes, but it did happen that I had to correct judicial authorities, too. If people are not right, let us apologize and correct the mistake. They will understand”.

Belarus ranks second in Europe (after Russia) according to the number of convicted defendants per 100 thousand of the population. And the reason for the leadership in question is not only in the repressive authorities, it is in the repressive public conscience. In June, 2009 52% of Belarusians agreed that the fear of punishment was the main incentive for law-abidingness. Habit as an incentive inducing a person to orderliness was put by respondents to the second place – 20.3%, and belief in the correctness of laws ranked only third (16.3%). The absolute majority (53%) believes in negative ramifications of punishment mitigation even for petty crimes. Only 28.7% agree that mitigation of punishment will lead to positive consequences. As for the capital punishment, the number of its opponents still cannot exceed the number of its supporters (in November, 2010 – 42.4% vs. 48.3% respectively).