On 9 December 2013 a Draft Bill on amnesty marking the Russian Constitution’s 20th anniversary was submitted to the State Duma by the President of Russia for consideration.
The Draft Bill was prepared having regard to the relevant recommendations proposed by the Presidential Council of the Russian Federation for Civil Society and Human Rights. The Council suggested in particular that those who have been convicted of violent crimes should not be eligible for the amnesty. This limitation was as well included into the explanatory note to the Draft Bill in question. The note reads as follows: «… it is suggested that the amnesty should not cover those who have committed criminal acts constituting threat or use of force and therefore, who pose greater risk to society…»
Nevertheless, in the same explanatory note the Ministry of the Interior servicemen who had taken part in hostilities are mentioned as a special category of individuals to be included in the amnesty.
Concurrently, the list of criminal offenses making the perpetrator ineligible for the amnesty does not contain exceeding official powers with use of violence (Article 286 (2) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).
Under this Article in most cases courts examine criminal offenses committed by the Ministry of the Interior officers against individuals under investigation, and by the Armed Forces officers against junior members of the service. Pursuant to the Law, these are grave criminal offenses.
Furthermore, those police officers who have taken part in hostilities usually demonstrate extreme atrocity when applying unlawful methods of inquiry. They in fact “promote” the use of torture against suspects and convicts.
A lot of instances of use of torture by the Ministry of the Interior officers who had taken part in hostilities are described in the Russian NGO Shadow (Alternative) Report on the Observance of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by the Russian Federation for the period from 2006 to 2012.
This is what happened in the «Dalniy» Police Department of Kazan city. As the official investigation into the incident established, the torture against the detainee which led to his death was organized by the Head of Criminal Investigation Unit Aynur Rakhmatullin. He had before repeatedly served military shifts in the North Caucasus.
Moreover, pursuant to the case-law and legal practice of the European Court of Human Rights, Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms stipulates that representatives of state authorities responsible for torture shall be adequately punished. This provision bears the most sufficient value for society to have confidence in the Rule of Law and to support the Rule of Law, and also for society not to suspect state authorities of instigating unlawful acts or being implicated in a conspiracy. In Russia, it has in itself become an issue that abusing their official powers police officers responsible for grave criminal offenses receive minimum or suspended sentences. Being released on amnesty is only going to strengthen their assuredness of impunity.
We encourage the State Duma to expand the list of criminal offenses making the perpetrator ineligible for the amnesty on those punishable under Article 286 (3) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
Pavel Chikov, chairman of the Interregional Association of Human Rights Organizations «Agora»
Igor Kalyapin, chairman of the Interregional Non-Governmental Organizations «Committee Against Torture»