Constitutional Court judgment on replacement to the death penalty
According to a Constitutional Court judgment from 26 January 2011, all death sentences passed for particularly serious crimes become life imprisonment. The judgment was in response to legal clashes linked with amendments to the Criminal Code. The Court ruled that the over 350 prisoners sentenced to death under old legislation cannot receive preferential treatment in connection with the abolition of the death penalty. After the Constitutional Court found the death penalty unconstitutional on 29 December 1999, the harshest punishment was 15 years imprisonment. Many applicants and judges took the line that the subsequent introduction into the Criminal Code of life imprisonment constituted heightened punishment and could not be applied retroactively. This position is rejected in the Court’s judgment.
The Head of the CCU, Anatoly Holovin stated that “life imprisonment is a less severe form of punishment than the death penalty which was allowed for by the 1960 Code. The replacement by courts of the death penalty with life imprisonment imposed by the new Criminal Code does not violate Article 7 of the Convention on Human Rights”.
Those prisoners who had managed to have the 15 year sentence imposed this changed since the court cannot retroactively impose a harsher sentence.