The legal system of any state reflects objective laws of the development of society, as well as, its historical, national, and cultural peculiarities. The Republic of Belarus, like any other state, has its own legal system which has both common features with the legal systems of other countries and its own special characteristics.
Analysis of the origination and development of the legal system of the Republic of Belarus demonstrates the fact that the content and the dynamics of this system are being affected not only by politics and political culture but also by the entire cultural wealth of society: religion, philosophy, morals, artistic culture, and science. It goes without saying that the evolution of the legal system of Belarus has a tight connection with economic factors – such as the development of productive forces and labor-management relations, as a result of the appearance of the market economy. Needless to say that, the continuing development of legal systems outside Belarus influences the formation of the legal system in our country, for example, our traditional legal values interact with new legal values taken from foreign legal systems. Undoubtedly, the interaction of our legal system with others will make progress.
Although the first steps of state system formation in Belarus were made only at the beginning of the 20th century, the legal system of our country has profound historical roots. The sources of Belarusian Feudal Law rank high among the world’s other famous ancient legal sources, (such as the Code of Hammurabi, the Law of the Twelve Tables, the Justinian Code, and the Napoleonic Code). The aforesaid statement refers to the famous Statutes of the Grand Duchy Litovskae of 1529, 1566 and 1588 years. The Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania of 1588 used to be the enforced law and the entire legal system of Belarus and Lithuania was based on the Status within these statutes for 250 years. The Polish Constitution of 1791 also should be mentioned here as a remarkable legal document, significant in the history of the development of the Belarusian legal system. This Constitution along with the American and French Constitution can be described as the most progressive documents of the 18th century.
The legal system of the Republic of Belarus was essentially influenced by those states, which influenced our country in particular historical periods (Poland – during the 17th-18th centuries and Russia – during the 19th-20th centuries). During the most part of the 20th century, Belarus was a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and this fact surely affected the legal system of today’s Belarus (its legal culture, the formation of the branches of law, etc.) After the break-up of the USSR, the legal system of the Republic of Belarus segregated from the Socialist Law Family.
The main branches of the law in Belarus
The legal system of the Republic of Belarus was historically formed under the influence of European legal culture. It belongs to the so-called Roman-Germanic Law Family, which is characterized by a well-defined structure of the law, its division into branches, and institutes. The system of law plays a defining role in the country’s legal system. Presently, the system of law of the Republic of Belarus has the following basic branches:
Constitutional Law. Its norms regulate the basics of the country’s political system, secure civil rights and duties, determine the order of forming and functioning of regulatory and administrative authorities, set the system of justice. The basic source of the Constitutional Law is the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, which possesses the highest legal force. In the case of divergence of the Constitution with other regulations, only the Constitution must be applied.
Civil Law. This is the branch of law, regulating the property relations and associated with them personal non-property relations. Civil-law relations are regulated by the norms of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, the Civil Code of the Republic of Belarus, and other regulations corresponding to these legislative acts.
Administrative Law. The norms of this branch of law regulate relations, arising between governing bodies, and also relations between governing bodies and citizens. There are norms of the Administrative Law mainly in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and in the Code of Administrative Offences of the Republic of Belarus, and also in other laws, decrees and edicts of the President of the Republic of Belarus, governmental decrees, acts of ministries, state committees, and other bodies.
Criminal Law. This branch of law sets which acts of people are crimes and which penalties the persons who committed them should carry. The only source of the Criminal Law is the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, which is based on the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, generally recognised principles and norms of international law.
Labour Law. It regulates relations between workers and employers. These relations are regulated by both the state and the agreement of the parties. The basic sources of the Labour Law are the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, the Labour Code of the Republic of Belarus, other legislative and subordinate acts.
Family Law. It determines marriage and divorce procedures, regulates the personal and property relations of the married couples and other family members, relations of adoption, guardianship, custody, defines procedures for registration of civil status acts, etc. Norms of the Family Law are contained in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, in the Code of the Republic of Belarus on Marriage and Family and in other legislative acts.
Land Law Regulates relations concerning land resources management in order to provide rational land use and land protection. The land matters are regulated by corresponding norms of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, the Code of the Republic of Belarus on land, by other legislative and subordinate acts.
Financial Law. It regulates relations in the field of accumulation, distribution, and use of public funds. Norms of the Financial Law are contained in the articles of Section 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, the Bank Code of the Republic of Belarus, the Tax Code of the Republic of Belarus, laws on republican budget, taxes and duties, in decrees and edicts of the President of the Republic of Belarus, decrees of Government of the Republic of Belarus, Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Belarus, etc.
Criminal Executive Law. Regulates an order and terms of serving criminal punishment, imposed by the court, and activity of bodies and institutions, implementing the punishment. The Criminal Executive Code of the Republic of Belarus) is a primary act, containing the norms of the Criminal Executive Law.
The Criminal Procedure Law. Determines the order of proceedings in criminal cases. They regulate the activity of bodies of inquiry, preliminary investigation, Office of Public Prosecutor, the court on launch and investigation of criminal cases, the legal status of participants in a criminal case, the order of gathering and evaluation of evidence, sentencing, and appeals against sentences, etc. The norms of the Criminal Procedure Law are contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Republic of Belarus.
The Civil Procedure Law. Regulates the order of legal proceedings on civil, family, labour and some other cases. The sources of the Civil Procedure Law are the Code of Civil Procedure of the Republic of Belarus and the Code of Economic Procedure of the Republic of Belarus.