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February 01, 2013


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Alexander Mercouris

Dear Patrick,

It is not only in Russia that Court proceedings take place to determine the guilt or innocence of dead people. You cite examples in Russia of Court proceedings to decide questions of posthumous rehabilitation. This is not so very different from the procedure in Britain where the Court of Appeal regularly though infrequently considers appeals by dead persons against their convictions, usually as in Russia at the request of their families. Two recent cases where that happened were the Derek Bentley case and the James Hanratty case. Bentley and Hanratty were both hanged following convictions for murder, which many considered unsafe. Long after their deaths the Court of Appeal heard appeals against their convictions. In the case of Bentley the Court of Appeal overturned the conviction. In the case of Hanratty it upheld it.

As you correctly say in Britain a case like Magnitsky’s would not be considered at a posthumous trial but through a Judicial or Public Inquiry, which would be headed by a Judge and which would hear and consider evidence in the same way as at a trial. The procedure varies in different countries but the purpose – to arrive at a judicial determination of the truth – is the same.

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