Print View  

last updated July 25, 2007


General Information

  • Country Name: Russian Federation
  • Type of Government: Federation
  • Population: 141,377,752 (July 2007 estimate)
  • UN Membership: Since 1991 (USSR was 1945)

The World Factbook: Russia, CIA, last updated July 19, 2007 

Applicable International Human Rights Instruments


In order to join the Council of Europe, Russia agreed in 1996 to establish a moratorium on executions and to abolish the death penalty.  Russia also agreed to ratify the 6th protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which deals with the abolition of capital punishment, within three years.  The Council of Europe passed a resolution on January 29, 1997 condemning Russia for executing 103 prisoners after joining the Council.  Although President Boris Yeltsin ordered the Foreign Ministry to sign Protocol No. 6 in February of 1997, the protocol has yet to be ratified.  See: Death Penalty News: December 1996, Amnesty International, January 1, 1997 and Death Penalty News: March 1997, Amnesty International, March 1, 1997.

Russia has not abolished the death penalty, but in 1996 Yeltsin issued a moratorium on executions and in June of 1999 he commuted all 716 death sentences to life or 25 years in prison.  In February of 1999, Russia's Constitutional Court ordered judges to stop imposing death sentences until the Russian Parliament passes a law guaranteeing the right to trial by jury in every region.  The Russian Federation Constitution states that all capital cases require a jury trial.  In reality, many trials were before a three judge court and often only one had legal training.  The ruling was not retroactive, however, and only applied to future trials.  In November 2006, the State Duma postponed the implementation of jury trials in Chechnya, the sole remaining region without juries, until 2010.  As a result, currently there are no condemned persons nor are death sentences permissible.  See: Amnesty International Report 2007: Russian Federation, Amnesty International, 2007; International News and Developments: 1999 – 1998, Death Penalty Information Center, 2000; Russia suspends death penalty, BBC News, February 2, 1999.

Although no official executions have taken place since the 1996 moratorium, Amnesty International reported that a possible extrajudicial execution took place in 1999 and at least one execution happened in the Chechen Republic during 1998.  See: Amnesty International 1999 Annual Report on Russia, Amnesty International, 1999.

Nurpashi Kulayev was convicted in 2006 of a terrorist attack in a 2004 Beslan school shooting.  The prosecutor requested the death penalty, but Kulayev was sentenced to life in prison.  The prosecutor’s request for the death penalty was an attempt to reinstate the death penalty for terrorists’ acts.

Death Penalty Eligible Crimes

  • Murder with aggravating circumstances
  • Attempted murder of a government or public official
  • Attempted murder of a law enforcement officer
  • Genocide

Methods of Execution

Although abolished in practice, the current method of execution is the firing squad.

Relevant Statistics

The last official execution in Russia was in 1996 and there are no current inmates on death row.

Men under 18 or over 65 and women were never eligible for the death penalty.

The Russian non-governmental organization Memorial estimates that between 3,000 and 5,000 men, women and children have gone missing in the Chechen Republic since 1999.  In the majority of the cases, the government was allegedly involved.  See: Russia: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2006, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 6, 2007; What justice for Chechnya’s disappeared?, Amnesty International, May 23, 2007.

Current Concerns

Russia continues to commit human rights violations in and around Chechnya, despite claims from the government that the conflict is over and that the area is the “quietest region in Russia.”  Although the reported number of abuses has decreased over the past several years, widespread reports of government involvement in abductions, disappearances, torture, and unlawful killings continue.  Government security forces and other government personnel often act with impunity and Russia has failed to investigate or prosecute serious human rights violations that have taken place throughout the conflict.  See: Chechnya: Research Shows Widespread and Systematic Use of Torture, Human Rights Watch, November 13, 2006; Russia: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2006, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 6, 2007; What justice for Chechnya’s disappeared?, Amnesty International, May 23, 2007.

The government has also failed to adequately protect against or to investigate racially motivated attacks – including murders – against ethnic minorities and immigrants.  Several human rights groups have found evidence of widespread government discrimination against and harassment of these groups of people.  See: Amnesty International Report 2007: Russian Federation, Amnesty International, 2007 and Russia: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2006, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 6, 2007.

Compiled from:

Embassy of the Russian Federation.

United Nations Member States, United Nations, July 3, 2006.

The Russian NGO Law: Potential Conflicts with International, National, and Foreign Legislation, Alison Kamhi, International Journal for Not-For-Profit Law, December 2006.

Declarations and Reservations, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, April 23, 2004.

Russia and the Death Penalty, Networking Human Rights Defenders, September 13, 1999.

Duma Discusses Abolishment of Death Penalty, Sergei Ivashko, Johnson’s Russia List, December 10, 2001.

Death Penalty News, Amnesty International, February 1, 2001.

Death Penalty News, Amnesty International, June 1, 1999.

Russian Federation: Death Penalty, LegislatiOnline, November 2004.

Russian parliament extends death penalty moratorium, Lisl Brunner, Jurist, December 10, 2006.

Russia's Top Court Upholds Life Sentence For Beslan Attacker, Radio Free Europe, December 27, 2006.

Beslan trial fuels Russia's death penalty debate, Steven Lee Myers, International Herald Tribune, February 9, 2006.

Russian Federation: The Death Penalty in the Russian Federation, Amnesty International, September 22, 1998.