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Zelensky signs law on tougher punishments for servicemen in wartime

Ukraine’s President Volodmyr Zelensky has signed a law on increasing responsibility for servicemen in times of martial law or combat situations, as per the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada website.

The document signed by deputies on 13 January has now been signed by the president.

The law increases servicemen’s responsibility for going AWOL, desertion, wilful abandonment of battlefield or refusal to carry arms, failing to comply with military orders.

According to the amendments, courts will no longer be able to give people reduced or suspended sentences under these articles. Furthermore, terms of punishment for administrative wrongdoings, for example, servicemen drinking alcohol, will also increase.

Before the bill was approved, it had been criticised by human rights defenders. On 15 December, a petition addressed to Zelensky asking to veto these amendments appeared online. Over 30,000 people signed it in 24 hours. Human rights defenders think that the bill significantly restricts servicemen’s right to legal protection.

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“Now, judges will not consider all circumstances of a case when imposing a sentence in military offence cases. Now, legal precedent will be unanimous — all servicemen getting serious and big sentences. Both those who went AWOL because of being drunk and those who actually were unable to arrive on post on time for medical reasons,” analyst for human rights movement CHESNO Victoria Oleynik emphasises.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi previously came out in support of the amendments.

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