Decree establishing the Revolutionary Tribunal (1918)


On New Year’s Day 1918 the new Soviet government issued the following decree, establishing the Revolutionary Tribunal:


“The Revolutionary Tribunal will have jurisdiction in cases of persons who:

– organise uprisings against the authority of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, who actively oppose the latter or do not obey it, or who call upon other persons to oppose or disobey it;

– who take advantage of their position as government or public servants to disturb or hamper the regular progress of work in the institutions or enterprises in which they are or have been serving (sabotage, concealing or destroying documents or property, etc.);

– who stop or curtail the production of articles of general use without actual necessity for doing so;

– who violate the decrees, orders, binding ordinances, and other published acts of the organs of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, if the violation of such acts calls for a trial by the Revolutionary Tribunal.

In fixing the penalty, the Revolutionary Tribunal shall be guided by the circumstances of the case and the dictates of the revolutionary conscience.

The Revolutionary Tribunal is to be elected by the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies and is to include one permanent chairman, two permanent substitutes, one permanent secretary and two substitutes, and 40 jurors. All persons, except the jurors, are elected for three months…

An investigating commission consisting of six members…. is to be created under the Revolutionary Tribunal for the conduct of the preliminary investigation. Upon receiving information or complaint, the investigating commission examines it and within 48 hours either orders the dismissal of the case, if it does not find that a crime has been committed, or transfers it to the proper jurisdiction, or brings it up for trial at the session of the Revolutionary Tribunal.

The orders of the investigating commission about arrests, searches, seizures, and releases of detained persons are valid if issued jointly by three members. In cases which do not permit of delay, such orders may be issued by any member of the investigating commission singly, on the condition that within twelve hours the measure shall be approved by the investigating commission.

The order of the investigating commission is carried out by the Red Guard, the militia, the troops, and the executive organs of the Republic… The sessions of the Revolutionary Tribunal are public…

The verdicts of the Revolutionary Tribunal are final.

Comrade Steinberg
People’s Commissar of Justice”