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Amnesty Law: A poor eraser for the government’s faults

By M.OYUNGEREL

Mongolia had nearly 7,000 prisoners in its jails in 2015, and out of the 3,084 who were forgiven under the newly adopted Amnesty Law, 2,071 were released last Friday.

The sixth draft of the Amnesty Law was approved in August 2015 as a part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first free democratic elections. The law had originally been drafted by 24 Members of Parliament in 2013. At first, the law was focused on business owners and bureaucrats, but the most recent version of October 29 no longer pardons convicts of five cases involving fraud, embezzlement and state fund theft. After much debate and a veto by the President, the law was amended, but it remains an issue of concern for many.

“Because laws are confusing and complicated, business owners avoid paying taxes, hide their income, and do what economists call ‘money laundering’. When the economic recession hit, the hidden income had to come out, and so the Amnesty Law had to be enacted. After Altankhuyag’s government fell, the new government created a tax amnesty law, but then turned it into a more general amnesty that applied to the public,” MP M.Temuujin, the former Minister of Justice who first introduced the law to Parliament, told news.mn in an August interview.

Generally speaking, amnesty laws are used when a nation’s constitution, courts, or government is failing itself. It’s mistakes are made right by giving those wrongly convicted amnesty. Teachers use the same tactic in classrooms. They sometimes fail to give students well asked questions or accurate answers, so they give students an extra point on a test for a wrong answer that was their fault. Both systems are very similar, but instead of taking home a disappointing grade on a test that can be changed later, prisoners wait and spend years of their lives incarcerated before they get their “bonus point”.

M.Temuujin said that the Criminal Code is “prison-ified”, that it has a lot of faults and loopholes in need of reparation. “That was the initial plan, to clear the effects of the faulty Criminal Code,” said the MP when talking about the reason behind the first draft of the 2015 Amnesty Law.

After much talk about how the Amnesty Law should resolve problems within the Criminal Code, the Parliament approved a law that contradicted the Constitution. Clause 10.7 of the Amnesty Law called for releasing criminals if the suspects, prisoners, and convicts confessed to their crime and paid monetary damages. Clause 2.16.14 of the Constitution states that it’s forbidden to demand a confession implicating oneself in a crime during a trial, investigation, or any other time.

Clause 5.1 of the Amnesty Law deducts two years from the sentence of a convict, regardless of the classification of their crime, including felonies, which means that level two and three felons had sentences reduced by two years when level three felons should have been released.

Although faulty, the law doesn’t apply to who people who have been convicted for first degree felonies, such as kidnapping, terrorism, rape, murder, and treason. The law actually applies to first time offenders, women and kids under the age of 18, and the disabled who have lost 70 or more percent of their ability to work.

The public is unaware of the background stories behind the individuals released, and the lack of information has made them vulnerable to common misconceptions and fears that are widely being spread on social media. People have been talking on Facebook about allegedly being threatened by individuals released. In Darkhan, the provincial government banned the sale of alcoholic beverages for 10 days, in what it believed would help decrease the chances of the recently released committing crimes under the influence of alcohol.

According to the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs D.Ganbat, as of November 9, none of the released people have committed crimes. But he didn’t deny that a number of them are considered likely to commit a crime again. “Lately, many have been posting about threats and crimes committed by the released felons. But I checked with law enforcement offices and found no charges  filed against those released.

“Statistics show that only five to seven percent of felons go back to jail. If these statistics apply in Mongolia, then 100 to 140 people are likely to commit crime again. But this is a very small number. You have to understand the other 1,900 are living a better life and contributing to society,” said D.Ganbat.

Are people on Facebook lying about being victims of crime, are the police lying, or are people committing crimes using the names of the forgiven?

On one hand, the law is beneficial, as it forgives first time offenders who might have been innocent and falsely accused of a crime, or those who are now smart enough to not commit crime again. The state believes it is forgiving people of crimes after they’ve been reformed, so they can really contribute to society.

It is also economically beneficial to tax payers, as our money is no longer toward feeding prisoners. It’s also good because the individuals released can enter the workforce and help strengthen the economy.

The state reports that it is saving approximately 4.1 million MNT for every year that one prisoner would have spent in prison, according to  a story published on baabar.mn. If you deduct the total amount saved from the 13 million MNT being spent on prisoner rehabilitation, we’re saving a lot of money.

While the state is spending money to rehabilitate the released prisoners, the public has a negative view on this. People have asked why if the state can’t even provide jobs to people who haven’t been in prison, how can they expect to provide jobs for those newly released?

The public remains unaware of the scope of the law and its details, and fear now resides in many people when they’re out at night. There’s talk among the public that prison is like college for criminals; the ones who are in for small crimes go to prison and end up learning more from advanced criminals, rather than understanding their own faults.

Some people even believe that the law filled the criminally minded with anticipation. If someone was planning to commit a crime, they could hurry and act before the Amnesty Law’s deadlines for eligibility  were effective, so that they could be released when the law was adopted later.

The law making process and approval of the law itself was very complicated and confusing, damaging public trust in the government and the justice system.

A video taken when some prisoners were released showed a man hugging his disabled wife, and lifting her and her canes into his arms.  The image warmed my heart, and showed that amnesty was one of the best things to happen for some people. We don’t know the stories behind every prisoner released, and we have no right to judge them.

For others, including the victims of crimes committed by those who were released,i t was also one of the worst things to happen. Many believe that the widespread prisoner release poses a great danger to their safety and security. There is the probability that more crime may occur, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen.

Issues like these have many sides; some will be in favor, some may benefit, some may hate it, and some may be hurt by the decisions made. Only time will tell what was right and what was wrong.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=16816

Posted by on Nov 11 2015. Filed under Opinion, Онцлох мэдээлэл. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Amnesty Law: A poor eraser for the government’s faults”

  1. This is really a very poor article. “we have no right to judge them”? What nonsense! Society has every right to judge them – for the crimes they committed. Anyway, all this talk about the many minor criminals is misleading. What the article totally neglects, are the corrupt politicians, that cancer of Mongolia´s society: The amnesty law was made for them! And it was made by their equally corrupt party fewllows! That is the true scandal.

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