Changes to Russia’s jury law will be the last nail in the coffin for the justice system


A statement signed by a number of human rights and civic activists in Russia warns that planned changes to the law taking criminal cases involving “anti-State” crimes out of the jurisdiction of juries will bury all hope of creating a fair and effective justice system in Russia.  The statement has been signed by the Heads of the Moscow Helsinki Committee Ludmila Alekseeva, the Civic Assistance Committee Svetlana Gannushkina, “ Memorial” Yury Orlov and many others.

“In present conditions the transfer of cases involving “anti-State” crimes which carry with them very long sentences to ordinary courts which on average hand down acquittals in less than one percent of cases, and bearing in mind the particular interest of the state, will deprive those accused of such crimes of any glimmer of hope of acquittal”, the statement reads.

The draft law removing crimes against the state from the jurisdiction of juries was tabled in the State Duma by the head of the Committee on Security Vladimir Vasilyev. What is in question are charges of terrorism, spying, treason and subversion.

Adjustments are also proposed to a number of “profile” articles of the Criminal Code. For example, a change to Article 205 “Terrorist act” would mean that sentences of from 10 to 20 years could be passed not only for prior conspiracy or participation of a group of people in a terrorist act, but also for causing “significant damage to property.”

In Article 206 “Seizure of hostages” deliberate killing will be deemed an aggravating circumstance leading to sentences of up to life imprisonment. Vasilyev is, among other things, suggesting the possibility of punishing those who shelter criminals without realizing it.

According to Lev Ponomaryov from “For Human Rights” this is a continuation of the destruction of the judicial system in Russia.  He says that the State Duma is full of lobbyists for the law enforcement agencies. 

The statement expresses concern that if these amendments are passed, they will provide a signal for judicial reprisals against participants in mass protest actions and the new trumped up “spying trials”.

Based on material at  

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