MOSCOW. Feb 11 (Interfax) - The death penalty can only be re-introduced in Russia if the "iron curtain" returns and officials' private opinion on the matter should not contradict the norms of constitutional law and international obligations, Russia's oldest human rights activist and head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alekseyeva said.
"We can't re-introduce the death penalty because it would necessitate our withdrawal from the Council of Europe and our international isolation from the modern world, which is bad not only for our economy, but also for the very existence of the country in the modern global world," Alekseyeva told Interfax.
"We can't exist under an 'iron curtain' like we did under Stalin. It's interesting what holes we will make in the iron curtain to send oil and gas there, get money for them, and put money on private accounts abroad," she said, commenting on the statement made by Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev on NTV television saying that he, as a citizen, does not see anything wrong in re-introducing the death penalty for brutal crimes.
"I may incur anger from opponents of the death penalty. But as a citizen, not as a minister, I don't think it would be wrong to exercise this punishment for such criminals," Kolokoltsev said on an NTV program that broadcast to the eastern regions of Russia on Sunday evening, commenting on the reports about the murder of girls in Tatarstan and the Irkutsk region and the statement made by NTV journalist Pozdnyakov, who said the public has been increasingly in favor of restoring the death penalty.
Alekseyeva said the minister "should not have made that statement."
"According to our international obligations, which our Constitution puts above our laws, there should be no death penalty in the country. For this reason, any official, regardless of his convictions, should publicly state just that," she said.
The human rights activist reiterated that she is an ardent opponent of the re-introduction of the death penalty, saying she believes the Russian judicial system is not ensured against errors when such decisions are made.
"According to the estimations made by officials related to our penitentiary system, about one-third of those who are [in prison] are absolutely innocent people. If we allow the death penalty, how many innocent people will be killed? Everyone who thinks they support the death penalty should think about that," Alekseyeva said.
"It's a crime to kill any person, no matter who commits it, a private individual, who is regarded as a criminal from a general viewpoint, or the state. If the state does it, it devaluates human life in the eyes of its citizens from an early age and, consequently, increases the level of violence in society not only by the state, but also in the head of every citizen as regards all others," Alekseyeva said.
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