RUSSIA - Moratorium on executions
State of civil and political rights: Not free
Constitution: 12 December 1993
Legal System: based on civil law system
Legislative System: bicameral Federal Assembly (Federal'noye Sobraniye) consists of the Federation Council (Sovet Federatsii) and the State Duma (Gosudarstvennaya Duma)
Judicial System: Constitutional Court; Supreme Court; Supreme Arbitration Court; judges for all courts are appointed for life by the Federation Council on the recommendation of the president
Religion: Russian Orthodox 15-20%, Muslim 10-15%, other Christian 2%
Method of execution: shooting
Date of last execution: 2-9-1996
International Treaties on the Death Penalty and Human Rights:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- 1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
- Convention on the Rights of the Child
- Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
- 6th Protocol to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (concerning the abolition of the death penalty) (signed only)
- European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty) (only signed)
With the introduction of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation of 1996 the number of capital offences
was reduced from 33 to five. These are: premeditated murder with aggravating
circumstances; assassination attempt against a state or public figure;
assassination attempt against a person administering justice or conducting a
preliminary investigation; assassination attempt against a law enforcement
officer and genocide.
Russia is committed to abolish the death penalty as a member of the Council of
Europe since 28 February 1996. In August 1996, then-President Boris Yeltsin, in
maintaining international obligations, imposed a moratorium on executions,
still in effect. However, executions were reportedly carried out between 1996
and 1999 in the Chechen Republic.
In 1996, Russia signed the Protocol Number Six to the European Convention for
the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms concerning the
abolition of the death penalty, but it has not ratified the document yet.
The moratorium has gone on, despite the continued resistance of the Duma (the
Lower House of Russian Congress) to abolish the death penalty.
In December 2006, the Russian Duma approved the extension of the moratorium on
the death penalty by three years, fixing its end-date in 2010. However, in
November 2009, Russia’s Constitutional Court prolonged the moratorium, which
was due to expire on 1 January 2010, until capital punishment is banned
completely. After the Constitutional Court’s decision, 697 death sentences were
commuted to life imprisonment.
For his part, President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly called for its abolition,
explaining that “The most efficient weapon in the struggle against crime is the
inevitability of punishment, and not the cruelty of punishment.”
According to a Public Opinion Foundation’s survey held
on 11-12 April 2015 among 1,500 respondents in 100 localities of 43 regions,
60% of Russian citizens, compared to 80% in 2001, see the death penalty as an
acceptable punishment. Twenty-two percent of those polled, compared to 16% in
2001, said the death penalty was unacceptable. Seventeen percent of those
surveyed were undecided. Seventy-one percent of respondents said that the death
penalty can only be applied to criminals who have committed sexual violence
against minors, 57% said this punishment can be applied to murderers, 55% to
terrorists, 46% to rapists and 34% to drug traffickers. Forty-one percent of
those polled said that the moratorium on the death penalty was a wrong
decision. Thirty-three percent of respondents upheld it and 26% were undecided.
Asked whether the death penalty should be restored in Russia 49% of those
polled answered in the affirmative, 5% said it should be annulled altogether,
27% would like the moratorium to be maintained and 19% were undecided.
The war on terror
On 12 May 2015, Russia’s State Duma
rejected in the first reading the initiative of member of the Liberal
Democratic Party faction Roman Khudyakov on instituting capital punishment for
The lawmaker suggested making relevant amendments to articles 78, 83, 87, 88 and 205 of the Russian Criminal
Code. In his opinion, “there’s a considerable gap in the criminal legislation
between the degree of social danger of the crime committed and the punishment
However, the State Duma Committee on Civil, Criminal, Arbitration and Procedural Legislation spoke against the
amendments, concluding that the concept of the initiative ran counter to the
current legislation and Russia’s international commitments, specifically,
Protocol No.6 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms concerning the Abolition of the Death Penalty.
The United Nations
On 29 April 2013, the Russian Federation was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review
of the UN Human Rights Council. In its National Report, the Government said
that “the ban on the imposition of the death penalty by the courts has been
upheld by a Constitutional Court ruling of 19 November 2009. In essence, that
decision finalizes the legal ban on such punishment in Russia.” The
recommendations to adopt the necessary measures to proceed, as soon as
possible, to abolishing the de jure death penalty, will be examined by the
Russian Federation, which will provide its responses no later than the 24th
session of the Human Rights Council in September 2013.
On 19 December 2016, Russia once again voted in favour of the
Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General
Assembly, but did not co-sponsored the text.