Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 44

News that President Yeltsin has ordered the Russian Foreign Ministry to sign the sixth protocol of the European Convention on human rights, outlawing capital punishment, has received a mixed reception in Moscow political circles. The move was welcomed by the Duma’s Yabloko faction, which said it will put draft legislation instituting a moratorium on executions before parliament next week. Until that happens, Russian judges will have little choice but to go on handing down death sentences. However, Yeltsin’s action was criticized by members of the Duma’s Communist-dominated Legislation Committee, whose deputy chairman said abolition is inappropriate when, he claimed, 30,000 people are being killed in Russia every year by hired assassins. Yeltsin’s move was also deplored by Sergei Belyaev, leader of the pro-government "Russia is Our Home" parliamentary group, who criticized the president for going behind parliament’s back. Belyaev said that if Russia wanted to abolish capital punishment it should change its own laws and only then sign an international agreement. (Interfax, March 3)

Changing Russian law will be difficult, given parliamentary opposition. Russia’s new Criminal Code will have to be amended as will Article 20 of the Russian Constitution, which sanctions the use of the death penalty. Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev added that, while abolition would not have an easy passage through the Duma, another problem is Russia’s shortage of prisons equipped to house life-prisoners. (Interfax, March 3)

Conditions in Russian Prisons Called Inhumane.