Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Russian Supreme Court Opens the Way for ‘Ex Post Facto’ Convictions in Extremism Cases

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 18 – The Russian constitution bans ex post facto convictions, that is, it specifies that no one can be convicted of a crime that was not a crime at the time of the action ( But now Russia’s Supreme Court has ruled that restriction doesn’t apply in extremism cases (

            As a result, those in the Russian Federation who follow the law cannot be sure that their actions will not be declared illegal after the fact, a change that opens the way for the state to bring charges against anyone for acting according to the law if it subsequently changes the law (

            The court held that the reason for this exception to the constitutional ban on ex post facto punishment is because if someone posts materials on a website or in social media and those materials remain there even for years afterwards, the state has a legitimate interest in punishing those who fail to take them down and thus can punish offenders.

            This ruling represents a dangerous expansion in state powers at the expense of individual rights even if it is limited to extremism cases and the use of the Internet. But there is a danger that by arguing that the consequences of other actions extend in time as well and thus the constitutional ban on ex post facto laws might be dispensed with more broadly.

            Should that happen, one of the most important legal protections law-abiding Russian citizens have had since 1993 will be gutted; and the state at least potentially will be able to go after anyone for any action even if that action was entirely legal in Russia at the time when it occurred.

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