(Aug. 11, 2009) On January 6, 2009, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus (MOJ) significantly simplified the procedure for obtaining a qualification certificate as a “judicial expert” by issuing the Regulations on Judicial Experts' Certification. (Decision of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus on Certain Issues of Licensing of Legal Services, No. 1 of Jan. 6, 2009 [Decision No. 1], NATIONAL REGISTER OF LEGAL ACTS OF THE REPUBLIC OF BELARUS [NATIONAL REGISTER], No. 15, Item 8/20256 (2009), available at http://www.pravo.by/pdf/2009-15/2009-15(132-141).pdf.)
Judicial experts are specialists in various spheres of science, art, or technology who are certified by the MOJ in order to be eligible to testify in civil, criminal, commercial, and administrative proceedings upon the request of the court, an investigative body, or the parties in a case. (Para. 6, Decision of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus on Activities Licensed by the Ministry of Justice, No. 1363 of Oct. 20, 2003, NATIONAL REGISTER, No. 121, Item 5/13248 (2009), available at http://www.pravo.by/webnpa/text.asp?RN=c20301363.) The pool of specially trained and certified experts was created by the state to ensure a high quality of expertise in judicial proceedings. The reports submitted by the experts are a separate type of evidence (experts are not considered to be witnesses) that is given much weight by the judges, as there is no jury system in Belarus. The judge is not, however, bound by the expert opinion and decides the case according to his/her own judgment.
Those who have knowledge of and expertise in a given field but are not certified as experts can be called to testify by the parties. The judge decides on the relevance and admissibility of such testimony. These people are called “specialists” and their testimony is part of the evidence. There are no fixed rules of evidence evaluation in the Belarus judicial system, and judges tend to give more weight to a statement produced by a person whose expertise has been certified by the state. (See, for example, paras. 19 and 105, Code of Criminal Procedure of the Republic of Belarus, No. 295-Z of July 16, 1999, NATIONAL REGISTER, No. 77-78, Item 2/71 (1999), available at http://pravo.by/webnpa/text.asp?RN=hk9900295.)
Unless performed by a specially authorized state institution or an individual entrepreneur, judicial expert activity is subject to licensing. (Para. 2, Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus on Certain Measures for Improving Judicial Expert Activity, No. 407 of Sept. 14, 2003, NATIONAL REGISTER, No. 105, Item 1/4928 (2003), available at http://www.pravo.by/webnpa/text.asp?RN=p30300407.) The license is issued by the MOJ not to the individual but to those legal entities that employ at least two certified experts.
The new Regulations on Judicial Experts' Certification lower the required work experience for obtaining a qualification certificate from three years to one. As of January 2009, in order to obtain the qualification certificate, judicial expert candidates must be Belarusian citizens with higher education and at least oneyear of experience in their sphere of expertise. Passage of an exam administered by the MOJ is also required.
The previous requirement of notarization of the documents to be submitted (copies of the diploma confirming education and of the labor booklet confirming work experience) has been lifted, making the application process less costly and time-consuming. In addition, the limitation on the number of times one may reapply for the certificate and the minimum waiting period between applications have been eliminated. Before January 2009, if issuance of a certificate was denied, reapplication was possible no earlier than four months after the decision of denial. An applicant who failed the exam twice in a year could reapply for the certificate no earlier than one year after the last decision of denial. Such limitations no longer exist. (Decision No. 1, supra.)