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RF supreme court expands self-defense concept

September 28, 2012, 11:23 UTC+3
A plenary meeting of the Russian Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the right of citizens to self-defence does not have any limits, including killing the assailant
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MOSCOW, September 28 (Itar-Tass) — A plenary meeting of the Russian Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the right of citizens to self-defence does not have any limits, including killing the assailant. But this right does not extend to the actions of the police during demonstrations. Law enforcement officials may use force and harm the protesters under the law.

The Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily writes that the Supreme Court explained that defence from policemen at mass rallies should not be considered as self-defence. “The actions of officials, even if they cause harm, do not constitute the state of self-defence,” according to the resolution adopted on Thursday by the Supreme Court plenary meeting. In the view of the judges, law enforcement officers do not violate the law, using force at rallies. The document’s authors make a reservation, however, that this is so only if actions of the police are exclusively legal. Experts have stressed in an interview with the newspaper that in the Russian law enforcement practice it is almost impossible to prove the illegality of any police action against the opposition.

The Kommersant newspaper quotes lawyer Dmitry Dinze, protecting a defendant in a criminal case on Bolotnaya Square mass disorters that the ruling of the Supreme Court is not binding and is a recommendation, but Russian courts are likely to choose to act in accordance with this document. “I think that this ruling will actually emerge in the Bolotnaya Square case,” Mr. Dinze is certain.

The Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily reported that the plenary meeting of the Supreme Court explained the criteria for a socially dangerous act when the person who defends himself is not to stand trial. For example, if a person is seriously injured. Or he was attacked with a weapon. Or the attacker started to choke him. However, there are situations in which not all is so obvious. Suppose the gun turned out to be a toy. What to do? The court ruling says that the immediate threat to life can be expressed, in particular, in threat of homicide and demonstration of weapons or items used as weapons. So, when it becomes really scary, a person can confidently defend himself.

The Novye Izvestia newspaper notes that the Supreme Court cited an attack with home invasion at night as an example of surprise in which a pesron defending himself cannot objectively assess the degree of danger. The court also ruled that the person defending himself has the right to a mistake: if the person defending himself could not realise the absence of danger, his actions should be considered as self-defence. The rules of self-defence also apply to the use of traps. But “if the caused harm is obviously inconsistent with the nature and danger of attack – it is exceeding the limits of necessary defence.”

The Moskovsky Komsomolets daily notes that the Russian Supreme Court specified: it is allowed to detain criminals not only in case they threaten you directly. And if they attack in retort, you can apply the measures of self-defence. However, it is important to make sure that these measures do not become fatal. In general, actions in excess of the measures needed for the detention of a person who has committed a crime entail criminal responsibility only in cases of intentional infliction of death or a serious or moderate injury.

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