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Russian Human Rights Council approves broad amnesty idea

October 14, 2013, 11:20 UTC+3

Human Rights Council plans to submit the concept to President Vladimir Putin

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Russia’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights approved a concept of broad amnesty timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Constitution. The Council plans to submit the concept to President Vladimir Putin on October 15, while the Public Chamber is urgently drafting its variant of the document.

Members of the Human Rights Council speak evasively of possible amnesty for those convicted in high-profile cases, the Komemrsant business daily writes. “As it is said in the Criminal Code, amnesty is not an individual act,” the Council’s chief, Mikhail Fedotov, said. The Criminal Code’s article on mass riots (the Bolotnaya case also falls under this article) will be also included into the Human Rights Council’s proposals.

In reply to the daily’s question whether articles under which chief of Russia’s former oil giant Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev, and members of Pussy Riot rock band were convicted, a member of the Human Rights Council, Sergei Krivenko, said, “Probably, yes.”

Another member of the Council, Igor Borisov, was cited by Kommersant as saying that he supported the amnesty, but the Human Rights Council made it “too emotional.” He expressed confidence that when the president and the state legal administration “continues working on this document, it will suffer serious changes.”

Mikhail Fedotov found it difficult to answer the question how many people will fall under the amnesty and even declined to name approximate numbers, Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported. To make such suppositions the Council needed statistics, but it did not have it, he explained. A member of the law reform commission and head of the national anti-corruption committee, Kirill Kabanov, expressed the hope that no less than 25 percent of prisoners would be freed. He said Fedotov would send requests to the Justice Ministry and the Supreme Council to find out how many prisoners would fall under the amnesty. Before representatives of the Human Rights Council spoke of several dozens of thousands.

A campaign to discredit the amnesty launched by some media sources indirectly tells against probability of broad amnesty, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. For instance, it is mentioned that under the amnesty persons involved in the Oboronservis embezzlement case, members of nationalist groups and other obvious criminals may be freed what would be negatively perceived by the public.

“I think that the Human Rights Council takes actions relying on its own position and not on instructions from outside,” an expert at Carnegie Moscow Centre, Andrei Ryabov, said, expressing confidence that in the run-up to the 2014 Olympic Games it would be advantageous for the authorities to set political prisoners free to ease tension inside and outside the country.

A member of the Human Rights Council, Georgy Fedorov, was quoted by Novye Izvestiya as saying that the more initiatives on this vital issue were put forward, the better it was. “Unfortunately, sometimes decisions are made without debates, without consultations with the expert community, law enforcers and human rights activists. This project cannot be given under control of only one structure, it simply will be unable to physically cope with it,” he said. “Therefore a decision has been taken that together with the Human Rights Council, the Public Chamber will develop an alternative project. I do not want to say anything bad about the Human Rights Council, but from the expert and administrative points of view and as concerns the influence of specialists, of course, the Public Chamber is stronger.”

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