Russian court looks at death penalty ban extension

AP News
Posted: Nov 09, 2009 9:54 AM

Russia's Constitutional Court held hearings Monday on whether a moratorium on capital punishment should remain in force next year.

The Kremlin has said there are no plans to bring back capital punishment, halted 13 years ago when Russia joined the Council of Europe. At the time Moscow pledged to fully outlaw executions, but has not done so yet.

Persistent violence in the North Caucasus region has prompted some to demand the death penalty for those involved in terrorism, and there is also public pressure for convicted serial killers, murderers and child abusers to be executed.

But reviving capital punishment would harm relations with the EU and undermine Kremlin claims that Russia is no less modern than European countries. President Dmitry Medvedev has spoken out about the importance of the rule of law and basic human values.

Representatives of both the Kremlin and Russian parliament attended the Constitutional Court hearings Monday and called for extending the 1996 ban on executions.

This would ensure no confusion when a formal moratorium imposed in 1999 loses its legal foundation in January, when jury trials are to be introduced in Chechnya. The moratorium had specified that courts must not hand out death sentences until jury trials are available in all of Russia's provinces. Chechnya is the only province where they have not been introduced.

The Constitutional Court will likely issue a ruling in a few weeks, court spokeswoman Yulia Andreyeva said.

The Kremlin-controlled parliament has been reluctant to fully outlaw executions, due to broad public support for the death penalty.

Pavel Krasheninnikov, the head of legal affairs committee in the Russian parliament's lower house, said that while Russia has signed a European document outlawing the death penalty, it must ratify the document.

"We must put an end to that, ratifying the protocol and amending our legislation accordingly," he said on state-run Vesti 24 television.