Staunton, May 14 – One of the most appalling features of the Soviet judicial system was its use of the analogy principle under which a judge could convict someone of something not defined in law as a crime but in the view of the court similar enough to justify conviction and punishment.
That principle was explicitly rejected by Russian officials and courts after 1991, but now, Yekaterina Mishina of the Free University says, it has been brought back, yet another sign of the ongoing re-Sovietization of the Russian legal system, one that threatens the rights and freedoms of Russians just as the Soviet one did (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/05/13/vpered-v-sssr).
In a Novaya gazeta commentary, she says that “de-Sovietization, one of the key tasks of the post-Soviet transformation has not simply ceased to be a priority. It has disappeared altogether from the agenda, and our ship now is flying not forward but backward into the Soviet past.”
She documents the ways the Kremlin has moved in this direction over the last decade, restricting the rights and freedoms of the Russian people and returning Russian courts to what they were in Soviet times, defenders of state ideology against domestic opposition and foreign influence.
The return of the principle of analogy happened in April, she says, when the Basman District court used it to convict the DOKA dissidents. Tragically, things aren’t stopping at this point either. Last week, Duma deputies proposed including in the legal code something familiar to the early Bolshevik period.
Namely, they are demanding that Russian courts punish people for not voting and also that they apply the law ex post facto to those who had acted in some way not illegal at the time but made illegal later, both features of the Soviet past and not just the last years of the USSR but in its earliest period.