Legislation on prisoner restraint unconstitutional?

Moscow 10 September 2014

The Presidential Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights has criticised proposed amendments to the legislation on prisoners


The council views the amendments, which relate to the use of physical force in cases of prisoner resistance, as contravening the constitution of the Russian Federation (RF).

The federal ministry of justice drafted the amendments and the government’s bills committee has already approved them according to Kommersant. The bill envisages staff of detention centres and colonies being entitled to use physical force (including methods used by the military) if ‘peaceful means’ do not work.

Furthermore, where prisoners demonstrate by their behaviour that they might escape or cause harm either to those around them or themselves and handcuffs do not happen to be available, staff may ‘use whatever means of restraint happen to be at hand’. They will also be entitled to open fire when detaining prisoners if the latter attempt to overcome them using a weapon or do not keep their distance. However, the ministry’s amendments do not state what distance must be maintained.

Andrei Babushkin, member of the council and chair of the committee on human rights, thinks the proposed amendments would contravene the RF’s constitution which prohibits the enactment of laws diminishing citizens’ rights and freedoms. The council’s chair, Mikhail Fedotov, agrees that a law regulating the use of special measures is needed in colonies and detention centres but that the ministry’s approach is unacceptable. ‘The bill needs public discussion’, he told the newspaper.

Author: Georgy Ivanushkin


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