Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Russian high court considers extraterritorial crime

Constitutional Court of Russia
An interesting news item from St. Petersburg:
Russia's Constitutional Court heard argument Monday on a question of extraterritoriality; specifically, as stated by this Russian Legal Information Agency report,
'the question of whether Russian courts should consider criminal cases against citizens who committed crimes against their compatriots abroad.'
From this English-language report and a Russian-language item on the court's website (thanks, Google Translate!), here's what appears to be the story.
A couple years ago, 2 Russians serving aboard a Malta-flagged tanker got into a fight while the vessel was docked in Constanta, Romania. One, Sergei Krasnoperov, was injured, and on return home to Russia, he sought to initiate a criminal case, alleging intentional infliction of physical harm.
A lower court threw the suit out, for the reason that Article 32 of the Criminal Procedure Code confers on Russia's criminal courts jurisdiction only over offenses committed on Russian soil. Article 2(2) does extend jurisdiction to ships, but only to ships that fly the Russian flag.
The Constitutional Court thus will evaluate the injured complainant's argument that Criminal Procedure Code's territorial limitations violate the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution of the Russian Federation, Articles 15 (1), (4), 45(1), 46 (1), 52. That last article, for example, provides:
'The rights of victims of crimes and of abuse of office shall be protected by law. The State shall provide access to justice for them and a compensation for sustained damage.'
The case seems worth watching.
International law recognizes several justifications for a state's exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction; in addition to various forms of territorial jurisdiction, they include the protective principle, universal jurisdiction, and active and passive personality/nationality.  At play in this case appear to be those last justifications -- an (active) national of the state is alleged to have committed a crime against another (passive) national of the state.
That Russia recognizes just one type of jurisdiction, the most traditional of the bunch, is curious. Whether the court will find that limitation unconstitutional remains to be seen.

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