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Committee advises Duma to pass draft amnesty law in two readings

MOSCOW, December 16, 23:25 /ITAR-TASS/. The Duma Committee on Civil, Criminal, Arbitration and Procedural Legislation on Monday, December 16, advised the lower house of parliament to pass the draft amnesty law in two readings on December 17 and 18.

“It [the law] should be published this year,” Pavel Krasheninnikov, chairman of the Committee on Civil, Criminal, Arbitration and Procedural Legislation, said, adding that “10,000 prisoners will be set free” as a result of the amnesty.

“It will be published officially on Thursday or Friday in Rossiiskaya Gazeta or Parlamentskaya Gazeta,” he said.

Several amendments to the draft law submitted by President Vladimir Putin in connection with the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution have been proposed. But the Committee 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.

At a meeting with Council Chairman Mikhail Fedotov and Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin 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.