Russia – Human Rights Committee – Death Penalty – March 2015

The Russian Federation has failed to prevent summary executions conducted by Russian backed separatist rebels in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.  Since 2009 the Russian Federation has not allowed the death penalty for any crime. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) requires that the Russian Federation must respect and ensure the rights “to those within the power or effective control of the forces of a State Party acting outside its territory, regardless of the circumstances in which such power or effective control was obtained. The Advocates for Human Rights (The Advocates) and Women’s Information Consultative Center (The WICC) have highlighted Russia’s violation of the ICCPR in a shadow report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee for the upcoming review in March 2015 of Russia’s compliance with the ICCPR.

The Russian Federation has significant control over separatist rebel forces in Ukraine, whose sole purpose is to join Russia. Russia has, at a minimum, provided humanitarian and military support for the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). Several credible reports have been published confirming that Russian troops were in fact present in Eastern Ukraine throughout 2014. Russia’s involvement and clear control over the actions of the separatist rebels confirms that the Russian Federation must be held accountable for the lack of due process in these regions. There are approximately 3.1 million people living on this territory that Russia has the responsibility to protect from summary executions.

According to the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission to Ukraine there has been a total breakdown of law and order in the rebel territories and the rebels have carried our several summary executions. The executions are carried out on rebels and civilian residents alike. Over the summer a civilian resident of an occupied city, Aleksei Borosovich Pichko was tried by a three-person DPR military tribunal, sentenced to death and executed because he stole a pair of pants and two shirts. Executions like the one of Pichko have been approved and encouraged by the self-proclaimed Minister of Defense for DPR, Igor Strelkov who is a Russian citizen and has served in the Russian federal security forces. Russia has clear ties with these rebel groups and must guarantee due process is given and they must end summary executions. The Advocates and The WICC have made several recommendations on how Russia can do this:

1. Denounce the use of the death penalty in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk that are controlled by separatist forces and call on those forces to cease imposing the death penalty in any tribunals;

2. Collaborate with the Ukrainian Government and separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine to conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into all allegations of summary executions in Eastern Ukraine and hold all perpetrators accountable;

3. Ensure that any separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine that are receiving support from the Russian Federation do not carry out summary killings or any form of execution of persons;

4. Ensure that victims of unlawful killings, including extrajudicial and summary executions, in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are provided with full reparations;

5. Deliver Igor Strelkov to the custody of Ukrainian authorities so he may be prosecuted for crimes he committed in Eastern Ukraine, and in the meantime terminate his employment with the Russian Government and conduct a full investigation into his involvement with summary executions in Eastern Ukraine.