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New law on house arrest introduced in Russia

From January 10 onwards a law imposing house arrest for minor offenses will be in effect in Russia. The bill, approved by President Medvedev at the end of last year, could help thousands avoid imprisonment.

The new law will likely apply to those convicted of libel, insult, theft, fraud and other minor crimes. Those sentenced for terms from two months to four years will face house confinement and a curfew. Among other restrictions, they will also have to notify authorities before changing their place of residence and jobs.

Electronic tracking bracelets are likely to be used to keep tabs on those under house arrest.

Proponents of the law, which will not affect military personnel, foreign citizens or those without a Russian residency permit, argue that it will relieve the overcrowded prisons and provide a good alternative for adolescent offenders. It is thought that the law will also reduce government spending (on average: 25,000 roubles per prisoner, per month).

However, Evgeny Arkhipov from the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights says there is concern that the possible benefits of the law may be hindered by corruption:

“The introduction of house arrest is a major breakthrough in the humanization of Russian law. It shows our state respects human rights, and works to eliminate the violations in jails and reduce the number of prisoners. But if we try to foresee how it will be applied, there is the threat of violation,” Evgeny Arkhipov told RT.

“Those who implement punishments may be bribed in order to help criminals avoid the penalty they deserve. And this will allow them to feel safe and carry on with their crimes. House arrest procedures should be prepared very thoroughly. The personnel implementing it should be well-paid and perfectly selected. Otherwise the new measure will remain on paper and those supposed to apply will seem inconsistent and corrupt,” the lawyer believes.

And Evgeny Reyzman, a lawyer for Baker & McKenzie, believes the house arrest system will work in Russia.

“In the majority of countries that apply such criminal punishment, it proved effective, to this or that extent,” he said. “I am totally sure it will also prove effective in Russia.”

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