RUSSIA: CONSTITUTIONAL COURT EXTENDS MORATORIUM ON DEATH PENALTY
November 19, 2009: Russia's Constitutional Court prolonged a moratorium on the death penalty, which was due to expire on January 1, until it is banned completely.
Russia imposed the moratorium after it joined the Council of Europe in 1996 and signed the European Convention on Human Rights, but it has not ratified the document yet.
"This decision is final and shall not be appealed," court chairman Valery Zorkin said reading out the ruling.
Zorkin said the moratorium on executions will be in place until Russian parliament ratifies Protocol 6 to the European Convention banning the death penalty.
He said an "irreversible process to abolish capital punishment" is going on in Russia, which is in line with its international commitments and global tendencies.
The speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, said the convention is unlikely to be ratified this year.
"A decision to ratify Protocol 6 in December is unrealistic," Boris Gryzlov said.
Gryzlov earlier cited strong public support for the resumption of executions behind the failure of the parliament to ratify the convention.
Observers have explained the public's opposition to abolishing the death penalty by high crime rates and people's dissatisfaction with police performance. Reflecting public sentiment, nationalist politicians even called for extending capital punishment to more crimes like drug-related abuses.
The court held hearings on whether to restore capital punishment as it was to expire in January, and the last Russian region, Chechnya, is to introduce juries as an alternative to panels of judges, removing the formal obstacle to reinstating the death penalty by firing squad.
The Constitutional Court's 1999 ruling declared that the death penalty could not be applied until trial by jury had been introduced in all Russian regions. (Sources: RIA Novosti, 19/11/2009)