Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Russian Federation: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE 2/7

Since the adoption of amendments to the Penal Code of the Russian Federation in 2003, there has been a significant change in examining cases of domestic violence. Most of them have fallen into the category of private prosecution cases (Article 115, 116. Part1, Article 129 and Article 130 of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation). From the perspective of legislators, this is justified on the basis that these crimes affect the rights and interests of specific citizens and it depends on them whether or not criminal proceedings are initiated against the offenders. However, in practice, this has meant that victims have been left virtually without protection from the State. Article 20 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that private prosecution cases may be initiated only on the basis of the statement of the injured party and are subject to termination if the parties have reconciled. The case is considered opened when the aggrieved party files a complaint that meets the requirements set forth in Article 318 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Russia with a magistrate. If the complaint meets the requirements, the magistrate initiates the proceedings and the injured party becomes a private claimant.

Thus, the aggrieved party in cases of private prosecution has to perform a dual role. On the one hand, as the victim, she is entitled to have her interests protected by the State. However, this depends solely on her will and is instigated only at her own volition. 

On the other hand, she has to act as a prosecutor, to present evidence, to formulate the charges and to seek the conviction of the guilty party. To serve as a prosecutor assumes knowledge of the prosecution process, the foundations of criminal law, the rules of gathering and presenting evidence. It is obvious that ordinary citizens do not possess such knowledge, and therefore are unable to properly present their case in court. When, in addition to issues raised above, the same question pertains to victims of domestic violence, a great role is played by the factors of post-traumatic stress, to which the victim is subject, as well as to the stage in the cycle of violence during which the complaint is filed. It should be noted that the victim usually continues to live with the abuser in one apartment, which gives him the opportunity to pressure and to intimidate her.

As a result, according to court statistics, the vast majority of cases of private complaint (90%) are terminated for two reasons: (1) The failure to fulfil the court's requirements to resolve the shortcomings of the complaint; (2) The reconciliation of the parties.

Typically, at the stage of filing the complaint, victims are unable to fulfil all the requirements, not only because of legal ignorance, but because of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the act of violence. This happens because the complaints are usually filed immediately after the violence has occurred, while at that time the cycle of violence is passing into the stage of repentance by the abuser and forgiveness (reconciliation) by the victim.  Women feeling guilty and believing the words of the abuser that violence will not happen again, remove the complaint and agree to reconciliation.

Thus, treatment of most cases of domestic violence as cases of private prosecutions contributes to impunity for crimes committed against women and leads to tragedies.

For instance, in August 2015 Oleg Belov, man from Nizhny Novgorod, killed and dismembered his six children, all younger than 6, and his wife, Julia Zaytseva. All had been hacked to pieces with an axe and bundled into plastic bags in their apartment. In 2014 и 2015 Julia Zaytseva repeatedly (no less than six times) appealed to the police reporting perpetration of violence against herself and her children on the part of her husband. However, police could not initiate a criminal case as the abovementioned incidents are classified as cases of private prosecution.   

In the General Recommendation No. 19 of the Convention the Committee Stated that State parties should ensure that laws against family violence and abuse and other forms of gender-based violence give adequate protection to all women, and respect their integrity and dignity (§ 24 (b)). The Russian Federation has not adopted comprehensive legislation aimed at prevention and efficient investigation of domestic violence, provision of comprehensive support to the victims and compensation.

Nevertheless, the State party has not implemented even a minimum set of measures aimed at prevention domestic violence and protection its' victims. The Federal Law on the protection from such form of violence, even though being widely discussed by civil society, has not been passed so far. Therefore, the term “domestic violence” as well as the comprehensive system, specifically designed to address victims' needs, are merely absent in the national legislation. Not every form of domestic violence is punishable under the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative offences of the Russian Federation, namely some forms of insults and threats, harassment, economic and psychological violence, and others. Likewise, stalking is not considered as a form of illegal conduct and does not lead to any sanctions or restrictions for the one who performs it. No protective measures can be requested by the victim in such circumstances. There's also no definition of “stalking” in the national legislation

The other significant components that are to be included in the system of response to domestic violence are specific training for professionals dealing with cases of domestic violence and coordinated interagency cooperation. These components are fragmentarily present in several regions of Russia and can serve as models for the state system of response. For example, in Yekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk Region the regional court is the core of interagency cooperation at the regional level in terms of responding to cases of domestic violence against women.      

This report is prepared by a group of experts under leadership of “ANNA” Centre for the Prevention of Violence. The Report covers areas of concern in regards to women’s rights especially violence against women with assessment of the state system of tackling violent incidents against women, hence the emphasis in the report on the analysis of the current law and practice.

The monitoring was conducted in Russia in 2010—2015. The monitoring results do not claim to be comprehensive; however, they do provide a general assessment of the situation, identify key problems and trends, evaluate the steps taken to resolve them and analyse existing obstacles. The list of violent incidents contained in the report is neither exhaustive nor representative; however it is a vivid illustration of the nature and scope of violence committed against women in Russia.

 Drawing by Violeta Doval Henández

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