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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Closed Trials Open to Lukin

In a series of rulings concerning the Criminal Procedures Code, the Constitutional Court has ordered Russian courts to allow the human rights ombudsman to attend closed trials.

The ruling is a victory for human rights activists, who have long complained about the potential for abuse in closed court proceedings. It will allow human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to sit in on the trials.

The court's decision Tuesday came in response to a request from a group of State Duma deputies who had found what they believed to be inconsistencies between the federal Criminal Procedures Code and certain federal constitutional laws.

They noted that the constitutional law creating the position of human rights commissioner gave him the right to sit in on all meetings of state authorities, including closed court hearings -- a right that is not granted by the Criminal Procedures Code.

The court ruled that when differences arise, federal constitutional laws and international treaties take precedence over the Criminal Procedures Code. However, the code overrides non-constitutional federal laws.

The court also clarified other areas of legal ambiguity. The Criminal Procedures Code does not require prosecutors and investigators to gather any proof that could point to the innocence of the person accused, which the court said was in violation of citizens' constitutional rights. The ruling will require investigators to collect evidence not only for prosecution, but also for defense.

The court also ruled as unconstitutional a Criminal Procedures Code provision that allowed prosecutors to turn down requests by defense lawyers to seek the testimony of witnesses who could establish the suspect's alibi during initial pre-trial investigation of the case.

The court furthermore moved to resolve contradictions within the Criminal Procedures Code itself.

One clause of the code allows law enforcement agencies to place State Duma deputies or members of the Federation Council under house arrest, while another guarantees their immunity.

The court ruled to allow house arrest only if the respective house of parliament gave its consent.