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Donbass lawmakers give green light to executions

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MPs in the Donetsk People’s Republic have lifted a moratorium on capital punishment, with three foreign fighters on death row

Lawmakers in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) have lifted a moratorium on executions, citing threats to the Donbass republic’s vital interests. There are currently three foreign volunteers, who fought for Ukraine and were captured by DPR forces, awaiting their fate on death row.

On Friday, Elena Shishkina, chair of the committee on criminal and administrative legislation in the DPR People’s Council, announced that “in light of the need to protect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and interests of the Donetsk People’s Republic in the existing military-political circumstances, it is being proposed to declare” the ban on executions null and void.

The official also pointed out that the death penalty is only meted out to those found guilty of “particularly heinous crimes against life and certain crimes committed in times of war or in a combat environment.” 

The mere fact that condemned convicts can actually be executed will serve as a powerful deterrent to would-be offenders, especially those committing “crimes against peace and security of humanity,” the statement on the DPR’s parliamentary website reads.

With a majority of MPs voting in favor of the proposal, people facing capital punishment could be put to death from the day the legislation is published.

On June 9, the DPR’s Supreme Court sentenced two British and one Moroccan national to death, finding the three guilty of being mercenaries and taking part in “Ukraine’s armed aggression” against the republic.

The fighters surrendered to DPR forces in mid-April in the city of Mariupol, which had seen weeks of heavy fighting between Ukrainian troops on one side and Russian and DPR forces on the other.

London insists that its citizens should be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention, even though Britain is not formally at war with the DPR and does not recognize the republic as an independent state to begin with.

Officials in Donetsk have said they consider the captives to be mercenaries, which means they are not under the protection of international law, unlike regular combatants.

On Monday, Aiden Aslin’s legal defense team said it had lodged an appeal of the death sentence. The Briton’s attorney, Pavel Kosovan, told Russia’s TASS media outlet that he was contesting two counts of the verdict – ‘commission of crimes by a group of persons’ and ‘forcible seizure of power or violent retention of power’ – and was seeking to have the case dismissed “due to the absence of corpus delicti in the actions of the defendant.”

In late June, Aslin’s compatriot, Shaun Pinner, also appealed the court’s decision, with his lawyer calling for the sentence to be commuted from death to life imprisonment.

Moroccan national Saadun Brahim’s defense also filed an appeal last Friday.

The DPR court has confirmed the receipt of all three petitions.

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