Russia moves one step closer to death penalty abolition

Amnesty International has welcomed a decision by Russia’s Constitutional Court that brings the country a step closer to full abolition of the death penalty.

The Court decided on Thursday to extend the current moratorium on executions, which was due to expire in January, and recommended abolishing the death penalty completely.

“By taking this decision, the court frees the people of Russia from the fear of being put to death by their government. As long as Russia remains execution free, the inherent dangers of the wrongful use of the death penalty are removed,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

A moratorium has been in place since 1999 and was due to expire when all regions of the Russian Federation had introduced jury trials. This is set to happen on 1 January 2010 when jury trials are introduced in Chechnya.

The Court has now extended that moratorium, stating that: “The path towards the full abolition of the death penalty is irreversible.”

Amnesty International has now called on the Russian authorities to remove the death penalty from law and ratify Protocol 6 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

“Russia has long been a supporter of abolition in the international arena and it is high time the country undertakes the last step and removes the death penalty in law,” said Nicola Duckworth.

When Russia joined the Council of Europe in 1996, it promised to abolish the death penalty by 1999. The country stopped imposing the death penalty in 1998 and the Constitutional Court ordered a moratorium in 1999.