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Russian Duma introduces the concepts of “mobilization” and “martial law” to Criminal Code

Russia’s State Duma has added a set of amendments to the bill on amending the Criminal Code, which was adopted in its first reading in July. As human rights defender Pavel Chikov points out, the Russian legislators are effectively introducing the notions of “mobilization”, “martial law”, and “wartime” to the nation's criminal law.

“The amendments are adding a host of new articles to Russia's Criminal Code, such as ‘Voluntary surrender’ and ‘Looting’. The list of aggravating circumstances now includes committing the offense ‘during a period of mobilization or martial law, or in wartime’. ... Balkers are in over their heads too. Refusal to follow the orders of a superior, which were given in accordance with the established procedure, in a period of martial law ... would be punishable by a two- or three-year prison sentence,” writes Chikov.

In particular, the amendments suggest punishing voluntary surrender with a prison term of three to ten years. A first-time offender, however, could be exempt from criminal liability “if they had taken steps to ensure their liberation, returned to their military unit or place of service, and did not commit other crimes while in captivity”.

The second reading of the bill is scheduled for today, September 20. As Chikov remarks, the Duma could pass it simultaneously in the third and last reading: “Following the trajectory of the legislative package on military censorship, this bill could secure the approval of the Federation Council, get the President's signature, and be published before the end of the day.”

On September 15, the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov advocated a “self-mobilization” in each Russian region. He emphasized that Russia is a federative state, meaning that its regions “could launch any initiatives independently”. Several governors seconded his suggestion.

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