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Duma to declare broad amnesty on occasion of Constitution’s 20th anniversary

December 18, 2013, 19:08 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Draft was supported by 444 of 450 MPs; the third reading is scheduled for Wednesday evening
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© ITAR-TASS/Vladimir

MOSCOW, December 18. /ITAR-TASS/. The State Duma on Wednesday, December 18, passed the presidential draft law on amnesty in the second reading in connection with the 20th anniversary of the Constitution.

The draft was supported by 444 of 450 MPs. The third reading is scheduled for Wednesday evening. The amnesty should apply to some 25,000 people.

Several amendments to the draft law submitted by President Vladimir Putin had been proposed, but the Committee on Civil, Criminal, Arbitration and Procedural Legislation recommended that the other nine alternative draft laws be rejected.

According to the draft amnesty law, 1,300 persons who are already serving their terms in prisons, about 17,000 persons whose penalties do not require imprisonment, and 6,000 persons under prosecution will be amnestied.

The amnesty will apply to the most socially vulnerable categories of convicts, suspects and defendants, and persons awarded for meritorious service to the country. These include persons who committed crimes when they were minors, women who have under-aged children, pregnant women, women older than 55 years of age and men older than 60 years of age, people with disabilities, persons who participated in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant cleanup operation, military servicemen, law enforcers, penitentiary system officials, and other persons who participated in combat operations to protect the country.

The amnesty will apply only persons who were sentenced to imprisonment for no more than five years and who did not serve prison terms in correctional institutions before. An exception will be made for minors who committed offences before the age 16 or who have served at least half of their terms.

The amnesty will not apply to persons who committed crimes that posed a great social danger or involved violence or threat of violence, as well as to persons who were pardoned or amnestied before, to persons who committed deliberate crimes in prison, and to prison inmates who grossly violate the terms of imprisonment.

The amnesty will apply not only to persons who have been sentenced to imprisonment, but also to persons who have been given penalties that do not require imprisonment or who received suspended sentences, and persons on parole.

Criminal proceedings against persons who are suspects or defendants under prosecution will be terminated.

According to the amendments adopted in the second reading earlier in the day, the amnesty will not apply to terrorists, pedophiles, drug addicts and persons who committed official crimes involving violence against citizens.

Initially, persons charged with mass riots and acts of hooliganism were supposed to be amnestied after their verdict had been handed down by court. However the Duma included these offences in the amnesty law, thus applying it to the participants in the Bolotnaya Square civil disobediences organised by the opposition in Moscow in 2012 and to the Greenpeace activists from the Arctic Sunrise ship detained for an attempt to climb Gazprom’s oil platform in the Pechora Sea this year. And they will be amnestied even if they go on trial a year after the amnesty.

However the organizers of the Bolotnaya riots will not be amnestied.

Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said the amnesty would apply to some 20,000 people and some 2,000 who are already serving prison terms would be set free.

“I welcome any amnesty. Any amnesty concerns people’s life,” he said.

He believes it “right not to apply amnesty to persons whose torturous actions defamed the state.”

Lukin said he understood “the state’s concerns that broader amnesty can cause the crime situation to worsen” and thought such concerns were “justified.”

“But this is not the last amnesty. Why don’t we declare amnesty in connection with the centenary of World War One, when a large number of people were killed. It will be marked next summer. Let us support a new amnesty,” Lukin said.

At a meeting with Lukin and Council Chairman Mikhail Fedotov on December 4, Putin agreed with the proposed terms of amnesty.

“Amnesty may be applied only to those persons who did not commit grave crimes or crimes connected with violent actions against representatives of the authorities, primarily law enforcement agencies,” the president said.

Putin instructed Fedotov and Lukin to “finalise the [amnesty] document together with State Duma deputies.”

“The decision should be balanced but definitely aimed at humanising law enforcement practices,” the head of state added.

“During your meeting with the Council on September 4, we raised the matter of declaring an amnesty to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia’s Constitution. You said then that this is something we need to think about, instructed the Council to draft proposals and gave us a deadline of October 15. On October 11, we discussed the draft proposals at a Council meeting. The proposals were approved by the majority of the Council’s members and were sent to the Presidential Executive Office,” Fedorov said.

“There are various points of view and differences in opinion regarding the details. But it is important that there is an understanding that everyone who has taken part in the discussions agrees in principle with the idea that the Constitution’s 20th anniversary is a fitting occasion to sum up some results and draw a line,” he said.

“Ahead of the 20th anniversary of parliament, MPs from all factions received numerous appeals for amnesty from the families of the persons who are serving prisons terms or are under investigation. So I think that not only our faction but also all others will support the draft law. I hope it will be adopted shortly,” Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Vasilyev of the ruling United Russia party said.

He noted that amnesty was the exclusive prerogative of parliament. Amnesty has been declared 17 times in Russia since 1994. Under the latest one, declared in July 2013, almost 1,500 entrepreneurs sentenced for economic offences were set free. “The property returned and damages paid to the federal budget amounted to about one billion roubles,” Vasilyev said, adding that “people are waiting for amnesty as a sign of mercy and humanism on the part of the state.”

“The amnesty process will continue for six months after declaration by the State Duma,” Vasilyev said.

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