Human Rights Issues in Eurasia / Правовые Вопросы В Регионах Евразии

Top Court Throws Out 40% of Lower Court Rulings – System of Phone Justice

Posted by Info on 29/04/2010

The Supreme Court said it had accepted 481 out of 834 requests to review criminal cases decided by lower courts in the last six months of 2009. “Laws and procedures were applied wrongly in 40 percent of these decisions,” the court said in a report posted on its web site Tuesday. Litigating parties often decide against filing complaints because they have little trust in the legal system.

Yana Yakovleva, chairwoman of the Business Solidarity partnership, a pressure group for judicial reform, said the number of cases that were reviewed represented a tiny fraction of the some 1 million criminal cases tried every year. “This figure is based on less than 900, so there are many thousands we will never hear of.”

Viktor Ilyukhin, a Communist State Duma deputy and former prosecutor, said 40 percent was a very high rate. “This means that when we debate judicial reform, we must also speak about the qualification of judges.”
Anatoly Kucherena, a prominent lawyer: “We need to carefully analyze how professional judges can make such errors,” he said.

“There is currently no system for training judges. They are selected by standard criteria. We need special institutes to prepare them for work over the course of one year.”
But experts agreed that a well-trained judge was of little use if he could not be independent.

Yakovleva, a financial director of a Moscow-based chemical company who spent seven months in a pretrial detention center on charges that were later dropped, said the main problem was that judges felt intimidated by prosecutors.

“Too often, judges just do not dare to rule against the prosecutor’s closing arguments.”
Ilyukhin pointed to widespread allegations that judges rule according to prior orders received from government officials over the telephone. “As long as we have this system of telephone justice, all reforms won’t bring us far.”

Critics have long maintained that the country’s legal system is overly punitive.Supreme Court Chief Justice Lebedev said earlier this year that while Russian courts last year convicted more than 920,000 people, the number of acquittals was less than 1 percent of that figure.

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