(Berlin, December 20, 2022) – The Russian Chamber of Deputies has adopted a bill that would provide effective immunity for some crimes committed in occupied regions of Ukraine, in violation of Russia’s international legal obligations, Human Rights Watch said today.
The bill, which was unanimously adopted by the State Duma in its first reading on Dec. 13, 2022, seeks to impose Russian criminal law and criminal procedure law in Russian-occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhanska, Zaporizhka and Kherson regions. The law stipulates that criminal cases and convictions be dropped against those who committed crimes before September 30 while working “in the interests of the Russian Federation” in those regions. These crimes are supposed to include war crimes and gross human rights violations, and will include Russian officials and their proxies.
The bill will become law pending second and third readings in the State Duma, its adoption by the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, and the signature of President Vladimir Putin.
“The new law Russia is proposing will ensure domestic impunity for Russian officials and their proxies who have committed war crimes and serious abuses in Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The bill shows a complete disregard for Russia’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions and international human rights law.”
If the bill is adopted, it will also deny compensation to those who have been illegally prosecuted in Russian-occupied territories.
In September, Putin announced the annexation of four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhanska, Zaporizhka, and Kherson regions. Days earlier, the Russian authorities had allegedly conducted “referendums” in these areas, with “votes” being hastily organized, in some cases at gunpoint. Similar to the alleged referendum in Russian-occupied Crimea in 2014, these practices carry no legal value and do not provide a basis for annexation or transfer of sovereignty. Russia remains an occupying power in these areas under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which continues to protect the civilian population.
Human Rights Watch said that Russian officials and their proxies responsible for crimes committed in occupied territories after September 30 are supposed to be protected from Russia’s continuing unwillingness to prosecute war crimes and other violations of international law committed by its forces.
Human Rights Watch has documented numerous serious violations of international law by Russian forces and their proxies in the occupied territories of Ukraine, including apparent war crimes, human rights abuses, and possible crimes against humanity, particularly torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and violence. sexual, abuse. Forcible transfer of civilians.
The bill violates Russia’s obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Article 64 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that in cases of occupation, the penal code and other domestic laws remain in force with rare exceptions. The enforcement of the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure in Russia is illegal. Russia is also obligated under international humanitarian law to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes committed by its forces or on territory it controls.
The bill also violates Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees redress for anyone whose rights have been violated, including through the courts. Absolving those responsible of any responsibility will deny justice to the victims and their families.
The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction in Ukraine. On March 2, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court opened an investigation into alleged serious crimes in Ukraine at the request of a group of ICC member states.
“Russia should drop this immunity bill instead of allowing more chaos,” Denbar said.
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