Staunton, April 28 – The Victory Day amnesty Vladimir Putin has promised “repeats all the mistakes of an analogous measure of 15 years ago, when the godfathers of organized crime along with repeat rapists and murders were released from prison” on an unsuspecting population, according to Versia journalist Ruslan Gorevoy and the experts he spoke with.
Indeed, they suggest that the poorly drafted amnesty plan coming from the Kremlin opens the way not only to massive corruption within the penal system but also could lead to the release of terrorists, pedophiles and cannibals as well, raising the question “haven’t we learned anything from our mistakes?”
The current amnesty like its predecessor in 2000 releases those who are suffering from cancer or tuberculosis, who have medical decorations, or the status of invalids. “Is this humane?” Gorevoy asks, suggesting that no one should “hurry to agree” given that could allow those guilty of the most heinous crimes to go free if they lack a leg, an arm, or can get medical certification.
This Putin amnesty, like its predecessor, features bold declarations that such things won’t happen, but it contains no legally enforceable language to prevent that – and in fact, Gorevoy suggests, it opens new possibilities for various kinds of corruption as those inside prisons work to get certified as having conditions allowing for their release.
Given that the heads of jails and camps will have the right to sign off on such certificates, Vladimir Osechkin, a human rights activist, says, this virtually guarantees that there will be “a trading in amnesties,” something that will involve exactly the kind of corruption that the criminals and their jailors won’t be able to resist.
One large group that is certain to get out under this amnesty, Eva Merkacheva, a member of Moscow’s public observer commission, will be siloviki [law-enforcement, army and intelligence employees] who have been convicted for exceeding their authority by beating or killing those under arrest in order to extract confessions. She says that in her view, the current amnesty is a sell-out to the siloviki “lobby.”
But what will undoubtedly attract attention is that the current amnesty as drafted does nothing to prevent the release of those guilty of cannibalism, pedophilia and other sex crimes – even those who gained widespread attention because of the seriousness of these offenses, Gorevoy says.
Moreover, because the amnesty in 2000, Putin’s first, largely recapitulated all the mistakes of the last Soviet-era amnesty in 1987, when “more than 60,000 prisoners, three quarters of whom were bandits, were turned loose on the streets,” one result is certain beyond all others: many of those released will soon be back behind bars for new crimes against society.
In 1990, for example, at least 16,000 of the 60,000 released three years earlier were again in penal institutions, a pattern that was repeated in 2000 and is likely to be repeated, following a new outburst of crime as a result of Putin’s incautious actions in the coming years.
Two experts with whom Gorevoy spoke are disturbed by what is happening. Valery Borshchyov, a rights activist with the Moscow Helsinki Group, says that the draft amnesty plan this time around is “qualitatively” different from the two most recent mass amnesties “and not for the better” given that the new measure does not define key terms and thus invites abuse.
Pavel Krasheninnikov, chairman of the Duma committee on civil, criminal, arbitrage and procedural legislation, agrees, saying that the proposed amnesty could release as few as 60,000 or lead to the release or dropping of criminal charges against as many as 350,000 to 400,000, with all the negative consequences that could involve.