On April 16, Russia signed Protocol 6 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. (Itar-Tass, April 16) Russia undertook to sign the protocol and to abolish the death penalty within three years when it joined the Council of Europe in February 1996. The battle to abolish capital punishment is far from won, however. The protocol will come into force only after it is ratified by the Russian parliament, where there is strong anti-abolitionist sentiment. Should the Duma maintain its refusal to sanction abolition, the Council of Europe might be forced to take steps to expel Russia from membership. The death penalty also has to be removed from the criminal code and from the Russian constitution, which sanctions its use.
The outgoing leader of Russia’s delegation to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) has warned the delegation that it faces a hard time in Strasbourg over capital punishment. Yabloko-member Vladimir Lukin, who has headed the Russian delegation since 1996, was replaced last week at the demand of the leaders of the Communist and Liberal Democratic factions, Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, respectively. The new delegation leader is Aleksandr Dzasokhov, who was briefly a Politburo member in the final days of the USSR. "The PACE used to aim most of its criticism at the Russian government," Lukin said, "but now it will now swear at the Duma which has so far stubbornly refused to abolish the death penalty." The delegation also decided to nominate the speaker of the Tatarstan parliament, Vasily Likhachev, as Russia’s candidate for PACE’s deputy chairman post. (Ekho Moskvy, April 17; Itar-Tass, April 18)
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