Practice Relating to Rule 114. Return of the Remains and Personal Effects of the Dead
The Russian Federation’s Interment and Burial Amendment Act (2002) states:
Persons against whom a criminal investigation concerning their terrorist activities has been closed on account of their death following interception of the said terrorist act shall be interred in accordance with the procedure established by the Government of the Russian Federation. Their bodies shall not be handed over for burial.
The Russian Federation’s Suppression of Terrorism Amendment Act (2002) states: “[T]he interment of terrorists who die as a result of the interception of a terrorist act shall be carried out in accordance with the procedure established by the Government of the Russian Federation. Their bodies shall not be handed over for burial.”
In 2007, in the Burial case, the Russian Federation’s Constitutional Court was called upon to rule on the constitutionality of two laws related to the interment of suspected terrorists whose deaths resulted from the interception of their terrorist acts. The Court held that the restrictive measures introduced by these laws were in conformity with the Constitution. The Court stated:
3.1 … [T]he interest in fighting terrorism, in preventing terrorism in general and specific terms and in providing redress for the effects of terrorist acts, coupled with the risk of mass disorder, clashes between different ethnic groups and aggression by the next of kin of those involved in terrorist activity against the population at large and law-enforcement officials, and lastly the threat to human life and limb, may, in a given historical context, justify the establishment of a particular legal regime, such as that provided for by section 14(1) of the Federal Act [on Interment and Burial of 12 January 1996, as amended], governing the burial of persons who escape prosecution in connection with terrorist activity on account of their death following the interception of a terrorist act. …
3.2. Action to minimise the informational and psychological impact of the terrorist act on the population, including the weakening of its propaganda effect, is one of the means necessary to protect public security and the morals, health, rights and legal interests of citizens. It therefore pursues exactly those aims for which the Constitution of the Russian Federation and international legal instruments permit restrictions on the relevant rights and freedoms.
In the conditions which have arisen in the Russian Federation as a result of the commission of a series of terrorist acts which produced numerous human victims, resulted in widespread negative social reaction and had a major impact on the collective consciousness, the return of the body to the relatives … may create a threat to social order and peace and to the rights and legal interests of other persons and their security, including incitement to hatred and incitement to engage in acts of vandalism, violence, mass disorder and clashes which may produce further victims. …
In such circumstances, the federal legislature may introduce special arrangements governing the burial of individuals whose death occurred as a result of the interception of a terrorist act in which they were taking part.
The Court also stated:
The constitutional and legal meaning of the existing norms presupposes the possibility of bringing court proceedings to challenge a decision to discontinue, on account of the deaths of the suspects, a criminal case against or prosecution of participants in a terrorist act. Accordingly, they also presuppose an obligation on the court’s part to examine the substance of the complaint, that is, to verify [that] the decision and the conclusions therein [are lawful and well founded] as regards the participation of the persons concerned in a terrorist act, and to establish the absence of grounds for rehabilitating [the suspects] and discontinuing the criminal case. They thus entail an examination of the lawfulness of the application of the aforementioned restrictive measures. Until the entry into force of the court judgment the deceased’s remains cannot be buried.
The Russian Federation’s Regulations on the Application of IHL (2001) provides:
After the burial, a proper statement shall be drawn up containing a description of the burial site (its precise coordinates), with enclosed lists of identified bodies, and specifying the number of unidentified bodies and their description. The statement shall be made in two copies.
The burial statement and the lists of the dead shall be certified by the signature of a person in charge of the burial, stamped with the official seal of the military unit (organization) and confirmed by the superior commander.
The first copy of the burial statement, as well as the first copies of the inventory of the personal effects of the deceased and a cover letter, shall be sent to the army’s headquarters. As soon as circumstances permit and at the latest at the end of hostilities, the second copy of the statement with the enclosures and the parcels containing the personal effects of the deceased shall be handed over through international channels to the competent authorities of the adverse party.