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Amendments to Сode of Criminal Procedure developed with assistance of High Commissioner adopted

23 March 2016

In March, the President of Russia signed Federal Law No. 40-FZ On Amendments to Article 281 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation. The law contains amendments elaborated with assistance of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On 15 December 2014, the High Commissioner submitted the Expert Opinion on draft law No. 272128–6 On Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation to the Supreme Court of Russia.

The draft law provided for the right of the court to announce testimony, as well as to play a record of investigative actions with a participating injured party or witness (i.e. the persons the testimony of which shall be presented as an evidence of the claimant or the defendant), in case they fail to attend the hearing.

At the same time, the party interested in such announcement (play of a record) — the prosecution or the defence — was obliged to find location of the injured party or the witness and to ensure he/she attends the hearing.

The announcement of testimony of the said persons was possible only if the accused one, at the previous stages of the proceedings, could confront the alleged victim or the witness, question him/her and provide objections.

The High Commissioner noted that in fact the draft law transferred the public powers, conferred by the Code (Article 15) exclusively on the court and subjects of pre-trial proceedings, to the parties of the trial. Moreover, as per the law the parties are not allowed to use procedural enforcement measures, while the accused person can even be in custody — in this case the defence will be deprived of the possibility to ensure attendance of a witness of a court hearing.

The Council of the Federation took the High Commissioner’s observations into account upon considering the draft law, which by that time had already passed the legislation procedure in the lower chamber of the Parliament.

In the course of the conciliation, a compromise version of the criminal procedure law has been elaborated. It has empowered the court to announce previously given testimony and play a record of investigative actions with participation of a witness and/or injured party. However, in the new version this power is not connected with the transfer of inadequate duties to the claimant and the defence.

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