By Paul Goble
In a further degradation of the Russian legal system, the Duma has adopted on first reading amendments to the criminal code which will transform the four Ukrainian regions Moscow has illegally seized into a new “wild west” by declaring that crimes committed there won’t be punished if they are carried out “in the interests of Russia.”
A new bill authored by the notorious Senator Andrey Klishas and the equally notorious Duma deputy Pavel Krasheninnikov and joined by United Russia deputy Irina Pankina and on its way to becoming law contains the following language, unprecedented even in Russia legal practice:
An act is not criminal and punishable, the responsibility for which is established by the regulatory legal acts of Ukraine, if it contains signs of a crime provided for by the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, but was aimed at protecting the interests of the Russian Federation, the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic or protected by law interests of citizens or organizations of the Russian Federation, the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Luhansk People’s Republic, the population and organizations of the Zaporozhye region, Kherson region.
Russian legal experts are appalled, and their overwhelmingly negative reactions to the measure have been assembled by the Lawyers’ Street portal (advstreet.ru/article/spetsoperatsiya-vsye-spishet/):
Moscow lawyer Mikhail Benyash says that under the terms of this measure, “a judge can free an individual from criminal responsibility for absolutely any crime simply because he considers that the action is directed ‘in defense of the interests of the Russian Federation.’” Such a declaration has nothing to do with law and recalls Victor Hugo’s discussion of carte blanche.
Anastasiya Garina, a lawyer with the Memorial human rights organization, agrees and points out that the law fails to define what are the interests of Russia. “Are tortures in the interests of the Russian Federation? Is rape? Is genocide?” Apparently these things will be in some cases if this law is adopted and applies.
And a third lawyer, Yuliya Strelkova, says that this law likely has been put forward to help officials cope with the growth of crime in these occupied territories. She says it will be critically important what guidance Moscow provides judges regarding the application of this unfortunate law if, as seems likely, it is approved.