Revolutionary Tribunals

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Revolutionary Tribunals


judicial bodies that existed in the early years of Soviet power. By the Decree on the Court No. 1, issued on Nov. 22, 1917, workers’ and peasants’ revolutionary tribunals were established to combat counterrevolution, sabotage, and other dangerous crimes. They were to consist of a presiding judge and six rotating assessors (ocherednye zasedateli), elected by provincial or municipal soviets. In 1918 the revolutionary tribunals were also assigned to review cases involving espionage, pogroms, bribery, fraud, the falsification or misuse of documents, and hooliganism.

Proceedings in the revolutionary tribunals, as in the general courts, were conducted in the language of the majority of the population in a given locality. The court hearings were open to the public, and prosecuting and defense attorneys were allowed to participate in the trial at the discretion of the revolutionary tribunals. Initially, the sentences of the tribunals could not be appealed, but in the event of a violation of established procedure or evidence of an obvious injustice in the sentence, the People’s Commissariat of Justice had the right to request the All-Russian Central Executive Committee to order a second hearing. Appeals to a higher court and the filing of objections to the sentences of revolutionary tribunals were introduced by a decree issued by the All-Russian CEC on June 11, 1918. On the basis of this decree an appeals division was established under the All-Russian CEC.

During the first phase of their existence the revolutionary tribunals were restricted in the kind of repressive measures they could apply; however, the struggle against the class enemy required the strengthening of these measures. A decree issued by the People’s Commissariat of Justice on June 3, 1918, stated that the revolutionary tribunals were not bound by any restrictions in their choice of methods to combat counterrevolution, sabotage, and other dangerous crimes. (This provision was confirmed on Feb. 17, 1919, by the All-Russian CEC’s decree On the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission.) To hear cases of exceptional importance an elected revolutionary tribunal was established under the All-Russian CEC on May 16, 1918, consisting of a presiding judge and six members.

The organizational and operational principles of the tribunals were governed by a statute enacted by the All-Russian CEC on Apr. 12, 1919. Revolutionary tribunals were established in all the provincial capitals (one tribunal for each province) and in other major cities. Each tribunal consisted of a presiding judge and two members, all elected by local soviets or soviet executive committees from among responsible political workers. To hear appeals and objections to sentences, an appeals tribunal was established under the All-Russian CEC consisting of a presiding judge, two regular members, and a reporting member, all appointed by the CEC.

The revolutionary tribunals were abolished in 1922, after the Civil War.

In France, revolutionary tribunals were emergency courts introduced during the French Revolution to combat counterrevolution. A decree issued by the Convention on Mar. 9, 1793, created the Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal, which after the establishment of the Jacobin dictatorship on Oct. 29, 1793, came to be called the Revolutionary Tribunal. It consisted of a president, three “colleagues,” a public prosecutor, and twelve jurors. The revolutionary tribunals differed from ordinary courts in their simplified proceedings. There was no pretrial investigation, the accused was questioned directly in court, and no defense argument or appeal of the sentence was permitted. After the coup of 9 Thermidor (July 27, 1794), the tribunals became instruments of counterrevolutionary terror. They were abolished by a decree issued on May 31, 1795.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
A revolutionary tribunal in the capital, and forty or fifty thousand revolutionary committees all over the land; a law of the Suspected, which struck away all security for liberty or life, and delivered over any good and innocent person to any bad and guilty one; prisons gorged with people who had committed no offence, and could obtain no hearing; these things became the established order and nature of appointed things, and seemed to be ancient usage before they were many weeks old.
Though she wanted to be a woman of condition, as the saying is, she was horribly afraid of the Revolutionary tribunal. The two sentiments, equal in force, kept her stationary by a law as true in ethics as it is in statics.
Large numbers of civilians were executed by revolutionary tribunals during 'the Terror', with estimates ranging from 16,000 to 40,000, from aristocrats to 'suspected' enemies of the revolution.
Having practically abolished the rule of law in the country, Khomeini had set up his Islamic Revolutionary Tribunals with a single mullah as judge, often clerical students in their 20s, and with no legal representation for the accused, no witnesses and no cross-examination of the evidence.
Such a charge could only be heard in exceptional Islamic Revolutionary Tribunals created in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini to organize the mass execution of his opponents.
The radicals set-up revolutionary tribunals to persecute opposition.
No revolutionary tribunals have been set up, and the country has seen none of the violent purges that followed the Romanian uprising of 1989 or the Iranian revolution of 1979.
Henceforth, military courts replaced revolutionary tribunals as the French republic's chosen instruments of exceptional justice.
In the 1980s, thousands of Iranians, who fought with you against the Shah, were executed, convicted by revolutionary tribunals, without legal representation, with no official charge.
Branding the US as Iran's greatest enemy, Pourohammadi, a former prosecutor of Islamic Revolutionary Tribunals, declared: "The US espionage network suffered its biggest blow in the 1980s after we destroyed it and arrested their spies, who had penetrated Iranian military and political organisations.
At the top of the hierarchical structure of the post-revolutionary Russian legal system were the repressive institutions of criminal law: quasi-judicial and fully administrative ones (revolutionary tribunals, army tribunals, railway tribunals and the like).
The suspects were brought before revolutionary tribunals where ideas of mercy, justice, and even guilt or innocence meant very little.

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