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October 31 2009 | RUSSIA


Supreme Court's President: we will abide by the commitments we took with international law and Europe on abolition of death penalty

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Russian Supreme Court believes no death sentences can be passed nextyear

 MOSCOW.  Oct  31  ()  -  The Russian Supreme Court chairman believes  Russia has to continue to abide by the European Convention for the Protection  of  Human Rights and its protocols on the abolishment of the death penalty.

 "It  is  absolutely clear to us in the Supreme Court that we should abide by the provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights  and  Fundamental  Freedoms and those on the abolishment of the death  penalty,  which  have  been  signed by Russia," Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev said in an interview with Interfax.

 Hence,  in  the  Supreme  Court's  view,  "our  courts  will not be entitled  to  hand  down  death  sentences starting January 1, 2010," he said.

 The  Supreme  Court recently asked the Constitutional Court to make it clear whether death sentences can be handed down in Russia next year, because  judges  "may  wonder  how  to  apply the Constitutional Court's [1999] judgment starting January 1, 2010," Lebedev said.

 In  February  1999,  the  Constitutional  Court  passed  a judgment "Clause  5 of which says that death sentences cannot be pronounced until the right to a jury trial is guaranteed in the whole of Russia," Lebedev said.

 This  judgment is still in effect, Lebedev said. "However, starting January  1,  2010, jury trials will be in place in all regions of Russia without  any  exception.  The  Chechen Republic has been an exception so far, but  a  provision on introducing jury trials will take effect there on January 1 next year as well," he said.

"Therefore,  in  order  to dispel any doubts, the Supreme Court has appealed  to  the  Constitutional  Court  to  explain its own judgment," Lebedev said.

 While  Russia  signed  the  protocol  to the European Convention on Human Rights  on  abolishing  the  death  penalty  in  1997, the Russian parliament has still not ratified it, he said.

 "Nevertheless,  in  line  with  international  legal  standards,  a country  that  has  signed  an  international treaty, even if it has not ratified  it  but  has not clearly expressed its desire to withdraw from it, should observe it," Lebedev said.

 The  Russian law stipulates that only the Constitutional Court, and not the  Supreme Court, can explain and interpret its judgments, Lebedev said. "It  would  be incorrect, unethical, and absolutely wrong if other courts could explain Constitutional Court judgments," he said.

 The  Russian  Constitutional  Court  is to convene on November 9 to consider  a  Supreme  Court  request  that  the  Constitutional  Court's judgment  of February 2, 1999 be clarified as regards the possibility of passing  death  sentences after jury trials are introduced on the entire territory of Russia starting January 1, 2010.

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