Amendments to Criminal Code caused much dispute. Letter from Moscow professor Dobrenkov to President Putin resonated in society

During his meeting with President Putin, Russia’s Minister for Justice, Yury Chaika, offered to reduce the maximum imprisonment terms from 20 to 15 years. In addition, the Ministry for Justice thinks that fifty-nine articles of the RF Criminal Code should be amended. The sanctions that are provided by these articles are groundlessly harsh and do not correspond the character of the committed crimes. Yury Chaika says that this initiative will reduce the number of imprisoned, and “the objective of the criminal penalty will be achieved all the same.”

Indeed, over the past years, penitentiary facilities have faced problems with space for the imprisoned, the number of which has increased by 36.6% over the last few year. Most of them have been imprisoned for repeated thefts. This year, the number of imprisoned will exceed 55 000 people in Russia.

The government will suggest the Duma to amend and transform the current legislation. Yury Chaika is to deliver a report at the session of the Federation Council today.

At the same time, the amendments to the RF Criminal Code submitted by President Putin to the State Duma provide for the elimination of capital punishment. The Duma is to give the amendments a first reading in March 2002. Life imprisonment is to substitute capital punishment. Deputy leader of the Union of Rightist Forces Boris Nadezhdin said yesterday that the faction’s liberals would vote for the adoption of the president’s amendments. Moreover, the deputy thinks that the amendments will be passed at the end of the year. A moratorium on capital punishment is currently in force in Russia. However, in accordance with the decision of the Constitutional Court, the moratorium will be lifted when a Grand Jury is introduced in Russia by January 1, 2003.

Today results of a sociological poll held by the research institute of the Moscow Humanitarian Sociological Academy among adults in Moscow are to be published. As experts, seventy-eight officials of the Ministry for Internal Affairs and twenty-seven ex-prisoners have been questioned. Unlike deputy Nadezhdin, 89% of the Muscovites support lifting of the moratorium; at that, 96% of officials of the Ministry for Internal Affairs and 100% of ex-prisoners also support the opinion.

An open letter of the dean of the Moscow State University’s Faculty of Sociology Vladimir Dobrenkov to President Putin initiated a new public campaign against the abolishment of the capital punishment. The letter was recently published by PRAVDA.Ru. RIA Novosti informs that the dean’s demand to abolish the moratorium on capital punishment has been officially supported by over one hundred professors of Moscow's higher schools. It is not clear whether the deputies will support the idea.

Sergey Yugov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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