On the eve of the World Hockey Championship 2014 Belarusian Helsinki Committee and Penal Reform Int. systematized some important legal advice for visitors to the country.
What is forbidden and what is not recommended rules of communication with the police and emergency phones.
Money and costs
No payments in foreign cash are allowed in Belarus (except for payments for gas at filling stations). You may pay with your bank cards in most of the bars and stores. You can also pay with your bank card for the taxi 135 (warn the dispatcher before requesting a car).
Don’t change your cash privately: the fine is $1500, foreign cash will be confiscated. Change your cash in exchange offices, only (those at the central train station work day and night).
An average cost of a taxi ride is Br70000 ($7), a drive to the airport will cost you $30. You should drive official taxis and ask for a receipt, so that you don’t overpay.
Alcohol and smoking
Consumption of any alcoholic drinks in public places is prohibited (beer as well!). They are to be consumed in bars etc, only (the fine is up to $120). One does not have to drink alcohol to be considered as an offender, as preparations for drinking alcohol (e.g. pouring it into glasses) are also considered to be consumption.
We don’t recommend you to appear in the streets being heavily drunk. If police officers decide you disturb the public peace, they may put you into a medical detoxication center.
Smoking is prohibited in most of the public places: sports grounds, bus and train stations, airports, underpasses, public transport, Niezaliežnasci square, Horky Central Park, Botanical garden (the fine is up to $60).
Other rules of conduct in public places
Traffic laws are observed strictly in Belarus, so cross the streets on the green light by crosswalks only.
Walking on lawns is unaccepted.
Ticketless travel in public transport is prohibited (the fine is $7,5).
Carrying of traumatic weapon is prohibited.
Emergency phone numbers
101 – Rescue service
102 – Police
103 – Emergency medicine
+37517 239 48 88 – Minsk Accidents Registration Bureau (collects information about all unidentified sick men, dead bodies, and all who suffered from accidents, from all the hospitals and morgues of the city).
+37517 239 40 01 – hotline of the Central Department of Internal Affairs of Minsk City Executive Committee.
We also recommend you to note down the number of your country’s consulate.
Communication with police
Except for political and public activists, Belarus is notable for a low level of conflicts between police and private persons.
Always have your passport with you, otherwise police officer will have the right to detain you for an identification check for up to 3 hours.
You may also be detained for up to 3 hours if you commit an administrative offence. This term may be longer (up to 72 hours) if arrest is provided for the offence committed. The term starts from the moment of detention, not from the moment when you are delivered to a police station.
When detaining you, police officer has to introduce himself, show his certificate, and tell you the reason of your detention. If police officer refuses to tell you this information, look for a badge on his chest, and try to discern and remember the number of his badge.
When delivered to the police station, insist upon immediate fixation of your detention together with the actual time of it in a special journal.
There is no «one call» rule in Belarus – you will have no right to demand a call. However it won’t be considered as a breach for a police officer to let you make a call. At the same time police officers ought to inform your relatives or your consulate about your detention.
You have a right
• to know what are you accused or suspected of
• to demand that your consulate or relatives should be informed about your detention
• not to testify against yourself especially if your testimonies can be used against you
• to have an advocate from the moment of your detention
• to speak in your native language or have a translator
• demand writing materials and lodge a complaint to the officer on duty, if you think that your rights have been infringed; your complaint can be lodged with the supervising prosecutor or the head of the police department
• demand, if needed, medical aid and medical examination
When a report is drawn up on you
• you have a right to write down your testimonies with your own hand
• read the report carefully
• sign its every page
• write alterations and additions in it, and sign them
• if you do not agree with the report, don’t refuse to sign it; it is better to write down your attitude with your own hand and sign it