The Russian Federation Thursday announced its withdrawal from the Council of Europe (“the Council”). The country claimed that EU and NATO countries are using their absolute majority to continue to destroy the Council, of which Russia will no longer will be a part.
Russia joined the Council of Europe, a leading human rights organization of the continent, in 1996. President Boris Yeltsin declared a moratorium on death penalty for the countries’ policy to align with the ideology of the Council. In 1999, a constitutional court of the country had ruled that no death sentences could be imposed until the requirement of trial by jury was met in all regions of the federation. In the same year, President Yeltsin commuted 716 pending death sentences. This move was welcomed by the Council.
In 2009, the Constitutional Court decided to extend the moratorium on execution, which was due to expire in 2010, with Chechnya’s introduction of jury trial. To this day, however, the death penalty has not been explicitly abolished in the country and continues to be part of the penal code.
In light of the recent aggression and invasion against Ukraine by Russian forces, the Council suspended Russia’s right to representation in the Committee of Ministers. In the parliamentary assembly, the country was also suspended from the Council of Baltic Sea States.
In response to these sanctions, the Russian Federation decided to withdraw from the Council. In the statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, the country stated, “Russia won’t take part in transforming the oldest European organization by NATO members and those obediently following them in the EU into yet another site for chanting about the West’s superiority and grandstanding. Let them enjoy interacting with each other, without Russia.” Soon after, former President Dmitry Medvedev said that this withdrawal would be a suitable opportunity for the country to reverse its position on death penalty.
Russia’s membership in the Council has played a critical role in ensuring that the country continued to maintain a favorable position on the death penalty. Its withdrawal essentially means a denunciation of the the charter and the European Convention of Human Rights. Thus, the country would no longer be bound by the Council to maintain a moratorium on the death penalty, exponentially raising the chances of a return to capital punishment.