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Death Penalty Information

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Russia: Duma Leaves Punishment on Table
Duma Leaves Punishment on Table

'The State Duma concluded its 4-year term last week, leaving a stack of
important legislation -- including that of banning the death penalty --
unattended to.
"That bill concerning the ratification of the sixth protocol banning death
penalty had been discussed thoroughly several times but we did not gather
sufficient votes to deal with the problem," Pavel Krasheninnikov, chairman
of the parliamentary committee on civil and criminal legislations, told
"It will be wrong to say that the State Duma has relegated the bill to the
background despite the fact that it was not voted on. But there is logical
possibility that the next legislative chamber will consider and prepare it
for another round of votes. Certainly it should be one of its priorities,"
Krasheninnikov said.
The next legislative chamber to be formed after the December 2nd
parliamentary vote will be tasked with tackling all unaccomplished tasks
as well as correcting laws that have not functioned as intended, in
addition to new legislative responsibilities.
Commonly referred as the State Duma, the lower house consists of 450
members, is elected every four years, and is responsible solely for
enacting legislation for the country.
A prominent lawmaker admitted that the majority of deputies in the State
Duma were unprepared to commit themselves to getting death penalty
completely abolished -- although President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly
called for its abolition.
Speaking at the Valdai International Discussion forum in Sochi, Putin said
that he considers the death penalty "senseless and counterproductive".
"The senseless nature of the death penalty has been proven by the
thousand- year history of mankind and modern civilisation, toughening of
punishment by itself up to the death penalty is not a panacea, is not the
most efficient instrument in the struggle against crime," Putin stressed.
"The most efficient weapon in the struggle against the crime is the
inevitability of punishment -- everybody knows that -- and not the cruelty
of punishment. This is the first thing. Secondly, I am deeply convinced,
that by using the death penalty in relation to its citizens, even
criminals, the state educates its citizens in cruelty and brings forth new
cruelty on the part of citizens in relation to each other and in relation
to the state itself. And this is also harmful and counterproductive,"
Putin said.
"In my opinion, the power to impose the death penalty should not be given
to any government. The death penalty exists for the primary purpose of
controlling criminally notorious people. But the threat of the imposition
of the death penalty is the ultimate threat," Professor Jeffrey T. Renz of
the Law faculty at the University of Montana told IPS, from Missoula.
Countries that have adopted the death penalty -- whether Rome after the
Catalinarian conspiracy or the States of the United States -- have always
used it as a tool of oppression, he said.
"There are other ways to protect ourselves from the murderers of say,
north Ossetia and the Caucasus region and from the Saddam Husseins of the
world. We may imprison them without contact with the outside world for the
rest of their lives. I think that the former Soviet republics recognized
this when nearly all either abolished the death penalty or imposed a de
jure or de facto moratorium on its use," he added.
From a western standpoint, Russian society is no longer democratizing,
Renz warned.
The Commissioner for the Council of Europe (CE), Thomas Hammarberg,
repeatedly cautioned that his organisation was not planning to wrap up its
monitoring mission in Russia until Moscow finally bans the death penalty.
The CE monitors the fulfillment of Russia's obligations, undertaken 10
years ago when the country joined the organisation.
Russia is the only European country yet to ban the death penalty, although
it promised to do so upon accession to the organisation.
Renz stresses that Russia should immediately repeal the death penalty and,
as part of its constitution, prohibit its use by the federation or any
"Countries who wish to participate in the Council of Europe, or have
relations with the European Union and the OSCE, for example, may freely
decide to enhance human rights or forego the benefits of membership," he
Amnesty International (AI) believes that the death penalty is not
acceptable under any circumstances in democratic world.
"Every execution is an affront to human dignity and a grave abuse of human
rights. The world is steadily turning against capital punishment," Piers
Bannister, a coordinator of the Death Penalty Team at AI, told IPS in an
133 countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.
"These countries have realised the risks inherent in the use of the death
penalty," Bannister said.
"It can be used against those innocent of the crime for which they were
condemned and it is often used after unfair trials or disproportionately
against ethnic minorities, the poor or other disadvantaged groups," he
AI regularly campaigns for those guilty of grave human rights violations
-- such as Saddam Hussein -- to be held accountable for their actions.
However, AI believes that any punishment inflicted upon them should only
be administered after a full and fair trial that adheres to international
standards and that, whatever the appalling nature of the crimes of which
they are accused, they should not be subjected to cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment or punishment.
"Nothing that we are aware of prevents Russia from abolishing the death
penalty," Bannister says.
Russian authorities have repeatedly stated that President Putin strictly
opposes the death penalty, but that the population may not be ready to
accept the full abolition of the death penalty.
Many countries, Bannister explained, have abolished the death penalty
despite a large portion of the population allegedly being in favour of it.
(source: IPS News)
The views expressed in these pages are those of individual AI campaigners or researchers, and do not necessarily reflect official AI policy.