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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

International judge talks dealth penalty

Published: October 29, 2010
Section: News

Judge Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a court that judges war crimes and crimes against humanity from the Rwandan genocide spoke on his interpretation of the Constitutional laws and the Russian and global shift towards abolishing the death penalty.

Prior to joining the Rwanda Tribunal, he was a long-time law professor in Russia, as well as a counselor in the Constitutional Court in Russia. In addition to discussing capital punishment, Tuzmukhamedov focused largely on the basic concepts and workings of a constitution.

Tuzmukhamedov said the court’s role is “to say whether the law that was applied was supposed to be applied or could be applied in a particular case, was constitutional or not.” Furthermore, “[they] don’t go into the facts of the case.”

He suggests that “although [he has] been with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for over a year now, since last [September 2009, he] still [does] not consider [himself] to be a judge.”

Tuzmukhamedov is relatively new to the international justice scene because Rwanda was his first international court that he served on. In the court “usually [they] would have at least one, most often two members of the panel who [were] professional judges, who [had] background in the judiciary either in their national courts or in regional international courts.”

Given a problem, the other two “address that problem from the point of view of procedure as professional judges” while he “[acts] as a lay judge.”

Tuzmukhamedov described the constitution as “a tool that could be used, or maybe could not when we deal with such a sensitive and explosive issue as capital punishment.”

In a classroom setting, the attendees and the judge talked about what a constitution is, what the best form is and who decides what should go into the constitution of any country.

Later Tuzmukhamedov explained the state of capital punishment internationally by pointing to how every European country except Belarus currently “is 100 percent free of capital punishment.”

Regarding Russia he explained that still “there are five counts for which a person may be convicted and sentenced to the death penalty. Those are aggravated murders, assassination of a state or public official, assassination of a judge, murder of a police officer and, incidentally, genocide.”

The Judge said that Russia’s stance on capital punishment has been “uneven” since the fall of the Soviet Union, as Russia was attempting to become part of the Council of Europe, which banned the death penalty in the 1990s.

Eventually, in 1996, Russia became part of the council of Europe provided that there be a moratorium on executions and that Russia would ratify the Council of Europe protocol banning the death penalty.

However, due to the rise of terrorism, some in Russia have considered reinstating capital punishment.

He also explained the general pattern of capital punishment in the world. “The United Nations,” he said, “has spoken, although in a non-binding act, a resolution passed by the General Assembly that … the tendency towards abolition of capital punishment has become a global phenomenon.”