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Russia Puts Detention Centers In Civilian Hands

13 July 2005 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin today signed a decree placing all Russian pretrial detention centers in civilian hands, under the Justice Ministry's control.

The decree ends the security services' control over such facilities, which dates back to the Soviet era.

Rights activists welcomed the decree, which the Kremlin said "took into account the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe."

According to Justice Ministry figures, Russia has almost 850,000 people in prison, one of the highest per capita rates in the world.

Separate figures issued in February said 42,000 people were being held in pretrial detention centers.