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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Constitutional Court Bans Death Sentence in Russia




Russia's highest court on Tuesday banned all courts in the country from handing down death sentences until the jury system is adopted throughout Russia.


The ruling means an effective abolition of the death penalty, said Constitutional Court spokeswoman Anna Malysheva. Introducing the jury system will take years, and Russia is likely to deliver on its promise of banning the death penalty before then, she said.


"Starting today, we effectively have no death penalty," Malysheva said.


Russia promised to abolish the death penalty when it joined the Council of Europe in 1996, but so far has only enacted a moratorium on carrying out death sentences.


Capital punishment has remained on the books, and courts have continued to sentence people to death - even though nobody has been executed since August 1996, according to the government.


Meanwhile, Russia has also been trying to adopt the jury system, but so far only nine of the country's 89 regions have it in place. The Moscow region - but not the city of Moscow - is one of those that do.


Russia's Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that until all regions have adopted the system, no death sentences may be passed anywhere in the country.


And the chronically cash-strapped Russian government is expected to take years to introduce the jury system.


"The government doesn't even have money to maintain the court system as it is," Malysheva said. "And the jury system is an expensive luxury. It will be put off for many years to come, I think."


Until the jury system is introduced, no death sentences may be handed down - even in the regions that already have the jury system, she said.


The new ban of the death penalty went into effect Tuesday. Like all rulings by the Constitutional Court, it is final and may not be overruled by any other body.


However, it can't be applied retroactively to the roughly 800 people currently on death row in Russia - most of whom were tried without a jury.