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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Disbands Pardons Commission

Itar-TassPutin meeting with Pristavkin on Dec. 28, hours before he signed the pardons decree.
President Vladimir Putin has dissolved the Pardons Commission, one of the country's most liberal institutions set up under his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.

A presidential decree, issued late Dec. 28, dissolved the commission, set up by Yeltsin in 1992, and ordered the creation instead of commissions in each of Russia's 89 regions under the direction of local governors.

It said commissions were to be made up of unpaid members "enjoying the respect of the community and having an impeccable reputation." Governors are to publish the names of prisoners seeking pardons from the head of state.

Putin's move followed several days of suggestions from the Kremlin -- as well as reports earlier last year -- that the existing commission was likely to be disbanded and a meeting with its chairman, Anatoly Pristavkin.

"Yes, the commission in its current form is being dissolved," Pristavkin, a respected author, told ORT television after the meeting, which took place Dec. 28. "But the president expressed his gratitude to the commission and said he was ready to make use of the commission's 10 years of experience in the future."

The commission examined requests for a presidential pardon from any prisoner, subject to a number of restrictions, and made recommendations to the head of state.

Made up of writers, actors, theater directors, clerics and other public figures, it earned a reputation for defending liberal values and was also seen as a safeguard against the harsh penal system inherited from the communist era.

"In any other country, where leaders and the elite espouse clear values, there is little reason for viewing such decisions [the disbanding of the commission] as symbols determining the path of development," Mikhail Krasnov of the Indem think tank wrote in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily. "We so far have no such outlook and therefore moves of this nature give rise to suspicion."

Pristavkin was a fervent defender of a moratorium on capital punishment introduced in Russia in 1996, despite overwhelming public opposition, in order to meet the membership requirements of the Council of Europe.

Last June, he complained that Putin had reduced to a handful the number of people securing presidential pardons -- compared with thousands issued the previous year. He accused the Justice Ministry, which runs Russia's prisons, of blocking the system.

NTV television reported Dec. 29 that prisons had begun releasing some of the 23,000 prisoners ordered freed under one of the periodic amnesties voted for by parliament in November.