GUARDHOUSES RETURN

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Tatyana Romanenkova, press secretary of the Duma defense committee, told WPS that the Cabinet submitted a bill to restore the institution of guardhouses in the Army to the Duma. As is known, this institution was abolished in 2002. In particular, Romanenkova stated that on June 30, 2002, the president signed decree No. 671 on the amendments to the military regulations of the Russian Army.

Commanders were denied the right to arrest servicemen for violating military discipline. Romanenkova said, “This corresponded to the provisions of the Convention of human rights and freedoms dated November 4, 1950, and requirements of article 22 of the Russian Constitution.”

She said that according to article 5 of the Convention, people can only be arrested on the basis of a court decision. Article 22 of the Constitution guarantees citizens’ right to freedom. People can only be arrested on the basis of court decisions.

Romanenkova said, “In other words, the international laws and the Russian Constitution ban arrests without court decisions.”

According to her, the bill submitted to the Duma takes into consideration the requirements of the Convention and the Russian Constitution. According to the bill, violators of military discipline will be sentenced to arrest by court. They will be taken to guardhouses.

Romanenkova noted that according to the bill disciplinary arrests will be applied to servicemen and reservists called up to the Army, except for officers, servicemen who have not sworn the oath of allegiance and female servicemen. This punishment will be applied to servicemen for disobedience, hazing of young recruits, AWOLs, thefts of military property, negligence with weapons and more. The maximum duration of the disciplinary arrest is 45 days.

The bill proposed the following procedure. If a serviceman violates military discipline his commanders must submit a report to the commander of the military unit within ten days. The latter investigates the incident and submits the results of the investigation to the garrison military court.

The judge of the garrison court must consider the case within three days. However, the violator’s lawyer and a military prosecutor can also participate in the hearing. The judge announces his verdict immediately. The copies of the verdict are handed over to the serviceman, the commander of the military unit and the military prosecutor. The violator, the commander or the prosecutor can challenge the court decision within ten days.

Why does the Army need such strict punishment for ordinary violations of military discipline?

Victor Zavarzin, head of the Duma defense committee, said that military crime has become a very topical problem. It should be noted that 662 people have perished in the Russian Army since the start of the year (including 182 suicides and 14 murders).

He said, “Just imagine the situation when a soldier leaves the unit without permission, returns drunk in four hours and starts kicking up a row. What should the commander do? There are no legal tools of influence on such violators. This is why some commanders have to use violence. Our committee receives a lot of letters from officers punished for putting down such violators.”

He asks a rhetorical question, “What should these officers do?” He answered it, “We need to restore guardhouses for punishing violators.”

Practically all lawmakers support Zavarzin. For instance, Major-General Nikolai Bezborodov, head of the sub-committee for military service and military duty, stated that the committee has already prepared approvals of the bill concerning disciplinary arrest. According to him, lawmakers seek to make amendments to the law on military courts, the law on the status of servicemen and the Administrative Code. In addition, they have prepared the bill on the disciplinary arrest. Bezborodov noted that the amendments submitted by the government correspond to the provisions of the Convention on human rights and freedoms, which Russia signed, and requirements of article 22 of the Russian Constitution, which reads that citizens can only be arrested on the basis of court decisions.

The pro-government majority of the Duma will surely support the initiative to restore the institution of guardhouses in the Russian Army.

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