The Framework of Criminal Law
Legislation on Bias-motivated Violence:
|Bias-motivated Violent Crimes as Specific Offenses||Bias as an Express General Aggravating Factor||Bias as an Aggravating Factor in Specific Common Crimes|
Bias Types Covered by Provisions on Aggravating Circumstances:
|Race/National Origin/Ethnicity||Religion||Sexual Orientation||Gender||Disability||Other|
Bias as an Express General Aggravating Factor
The Criminal Code of the Russian Federation contains provisions that expressly enable the racist or other bias motives of the offender to be taken into account by the courts as an aggravating circumstance when sentencing.
Article 63 of the Criminal Code is a general sentencing provision that identifies aggravating circumstances that give rise to more serious penalties, including under part (1)(f) “a motive of political, ideological, national, racial, religious hate or enmity or a motive of hate or enmity towards a certain social group” in the commission of crimes. It does not set out the scope of these enhanced penalties. While article 63 would appear to provide a basis for enhanced penalties for bias attacks charged as common crime, there is no evidence that prosecutors regularly seek enhanced penalties under this provision or that courts hand down such sentences.
Bias as an Aggravating Factor in Specific Common Crimes
Other provisions of the Criminal Code provide for more severe, specific penalties when bias motivation is shown in particular crimes. Article 105 punishes murder with incarceration ranging from six to fifteen years. Article 105(2)(k) defines murder “with a motive of political, ideological, national, racial, religious hatred or enmity or a motive of hate or enmity towards a certain social group” as punishable “by incarceration for eight to twenty years, or by a life term of incarceration or by the death penalty.”
Other provisions of the Criminal Code that can be applied to violent hate crimes include article 111 (Deliberate infliction of grievous bodily harm), article 112 (Deliberate infliction of moderate bodily harm), article 115 (Deliberate infliction of mild bodily harm), article 116 (Assault), article 117 (Torture), defined as “the causing of physical or psychological suffering through systematic beatings or other violent actions,” article 119 (Threatening murder or the infliction of serious bodily harm), and article 150 (Involving a minor in the commission of a crime). Higher penalties are established for each of these crimes when committed “with a motive of ideological, political, national, racial, religious hatred or enmity or with a motive of hatred or enmity towards a certain social group.”
As a result of August 2007 amendments to the criminal code, bias motivations as an aggravating circumstance are also included in article 213 (Hooliganism). Even minor acts of hooliganism are now subject to a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment if accompanied by a bias motivation. Observers have expressed concern however that such provisions can also now be used against members of political opposition groups.
The criminal code also punishes violent acts against property, with more serious punishments now available in the event that an act of vandalism (article 214) or desecration (article 244) is accompanied by a bias motivation. For example, whereas the desecration of human remains or places of burial without the aggravating factor can be punished with up to three months imprisonment, prosecution as a hate crime can result in up to 5 years imprisonment.
Although there had been a steady increase between 2004-2009 in the extent to which hate crimes had been recognized and prosecuted as such, 2007 marked a step back in that respect. According to the SOVA Center, there were 44 guilty verdicts in cases involving violent hate crime attacks in 2009, 33 in 2008, and 24 in 2007. While the number of such verdicts is growing, the number of successful prosecutions is far below the overall amount of incidents of violent attacks in Russia.
 Although the Criminal Code provides for the death penalty, there is currently a moratorium on its use, in line with policies of the Council of Europe, of which the Russian Federation is a member. Russian law allows for jury trials in “especially grave” crimes, which are those punishable by imprisonment of more than 15 years, life imprisonment, or the death penalty. Because murder aggravated by a motive of national, racial, or religious hatred is among those crimes that can be considered “especially grave,” the defendant in such cases has the right to call for a trial by jury.
 Galina Kozhevnikova, “Chronicle of Guilty Verdicts for Hate Motivated Violence. 2009.,” SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, January 4, 2010, http://xeno.sova-center.ru/6BA2468/6BB4208/E29821F.