Presumption of Innocence

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Presumption of Innocence


in law, the principle that an accused person is not presumed guilty until guilt has been proved in the legally established manner. The purpose of the presumption of innocence in Soviet criminal procedure is to protect personal rights, ensure the accused’s constitutional right to defense, and guard innocent persons from illegal and unfounded criminal responsibility and conviction. Like any other presumption, the presumption of innocence may be rejected, but only by means established in procedural law and only with the assistance of evidence that is relevant to the case and admitted by law.

The presumption of innocence was first proclaimed in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen at the beginning of the French Revolution: “Everyone must be presumed innocent until he is pronounced guilty” (art. 9). The principle of presumption of innocence is usually proclaimed in the law of modern bourgeois countries and in bourgeois criminal procedural science. In the court practice of the bourgeois countries, however, a presumption of guilt predominates; this can be seen with particular clarity in the criminal prosecution of progressive figures. Nonetheless, in these countries the presumption of innocence is a means of fighting unsubstantiated accusations when large numbers of working people and progressive public opinion oppose such accusations.

The principle of presumption of innocence is fixed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on Dec. 10, 1948, and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted in 1966.

Only in socialist criminal procedure did presumption of innocence acquire its true meaning and real substance. The principle is fixed in the criminal procedural codes of Poland (1970), the German Democratic Republic (1968), and other socialist countries. It is found in many regulations of the Basic Principles of Criminal Procedure of the USSR and the Union Republics (1958). According to this document, no one may be officially accused of a crime except on the grounds and in the manner established by law (art. 4); no one may be found guilty and thereby subjected to criminal punishment except on the basis of a court sentence (art. 7); the court, procurator, investigator, and person conducting the inquiry do not have the right to shift the burden of proof to the accused person, that is, accused persons are not obliged to prove their innocence; it is forbidden to attempt to obtain testimony from an accused person by force, threats, or other illegal measures (art. 14); the guilt of the accused person for commission of the crime must be proved during the investigation and examination of the evidence in court (art. 15); the indictment of an accused person does not predetermine the question of guilt (art. 36); and a guilty verdict cannot be based on presumptions and is rendered only if the guilt of the defendant for commission of the crime has been proved during the trial (art. 43).

The principle of the presumption of innocence, that is, the idea that all unremoved doubts should be interpreted in favor of the defendant, was fixed in law by a June 30, 1969, resolution of the plenum of the Supreme Court of the USSR entitled On the Court Verdict. All of these provisions taken together fully ensure the application of the presumption of innocence.


Teoriia dokazatel’stv v sovetskom ugolovnom protsesse. 2nd ed. Moscow, 1973. Chapter 5.
Polianskii, N. N. Dokazatel’stva v inostrannom ugolovnom protsesse. Moscow, 1946.
Strogovich, M. S. Kurs sovetskogo ugolovnogo protsessa, vol. 1. Moscow, 1968. Chapters 5 and 10.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The dead giveaway of the situation is found in the Labour Party's general election manifesto which states, 'We see a strong case for a new presumption that would allow evidence of previous convictions.' This means the vital, crucial and indispensable safeguard of natural justice, that of the presumption of innocence, is replaced with a new presumption of guilt.
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In the tax courts, there is a virtual presumption of guilt.
More than this, isn't a policing technique which is based on a presumption of guilt until you can prove yourself to be innocent fundamentally wrong and against those principles which we used to call British justice?
These cases and untold others are built of the same blocks as the one against Jewell - investigators covering their butts, frenzied media, a fearful public, a suspect who by virtue of age or race or personality seems to justify a presumption of guilt. And today this presumption extends even to group culpability: Some crime-policy gurus are advocating extended mass incarceration of inner-city juvenile offenders because of the statistical likelihood that they fit the profile of future "superpredators."
His premise is erroneously based on presumption of guilt without evidence.
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But now, there appears to be presumption of guilt even if one is suspected of [committing] a crime, he said.
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This presumption of guilt goes against a fundamental principle of justice: innocent until proven guiltya[euro]"It would hold publishers of websites accountable for seditious or defamatory postings even if they are not the actual authors.
In denying Arroyo's petition for bail, the Sandiganbayan cited "a great presumption of guilt on the accused." The former president remains under hospital arrest at Veterans Memorial Medical Center.
shows no great presumption of guilt against these three directors.