Paul Goble: Nearly 60 Percent of Russian Judges in Criminal Cases are Former Siloviki, New Study Says

Staunton, October 7 – In most countries, few judges have police backgrounds; but in Russia, 58 percent of judges overseeing criminal cases are former siloviki, an origin that helps to explain why Russian courts now find a higher percentage of those charged guilty (99.87 percent) than did Soviet ones in Stalin’s time. These are just some of the results reported in a new study by the Jurisprudence State Corporation now being discussed in the media (thinktanks.by/publication/2019/10/07/v-rossii-58-sudey-spetsializiruyuschihsya-na-ugolovnyh-delah-byvshie-siloviki.html and proekt.media/research/nezavisimost-sudey). The study said that, at present, Russia has approximately 34,000 judges who work in about 10,000 courts. They are supported by staffs who directly support them numbering 86,000 and indirectly by court staffs with more than 165,000

employees. It also reported that during the last three years, only two percent of new judges had backgrounds as lawyers. Many Russians have told Levada Center sociologists that they are dissatisfied with the courts, feeling that they are not arbiters of justice but a tool the regime uses against them for its own purposes. This sense that the courts are captives of the state continues to grow, Novyye izvestiya reports (newizv.ru/article/tilda/04-10-2019/kak-rossiyskie-sudi-stali-zalozhnikami-sistemy-sudebnoy-i-politicheskoy). Not only do lawyers only rarely become judges, but the system is stacked in favor of the siloviki. The process of selecting judges gives the last and perhaps definitive word to the FSB rather than to other lawyers or the legal fraternity. Not surprisingly, its officers have their own point of view about how any accused should be treated. One recent study found, the paper continues, that “the entire system works against people.” Those accused are assumed to be guilty and the courts act accordingly. And the FSB’s blocking of complaints against judges has reinforced this pattern (mk.ru/social/2018/09/27/fsb-ne-budet-prinimat-ot-grazhdan-zhaloby-na-sudey.html). According to a survey carried out by scholars at the European University in St. Petersburg, only 50 percent of judges think their task is to protect the rights of the accused, and only 36.5 percent believe they should care about justice. Instead, they only want to ensure the letter of the law is carried out. If the laws are bad, so too will be the decisions. When the Soviet Union fell apart, there was a brief period when it appeared possible that Russian courts would move in a more positive direction. But the continued presence of Supreme Court head Vyacheslav Lebedev, who has been in office 30 years, have made that impossible. The real turning point came in 1996 when judges began to be appointed for life. Lebedev’s recent reappointment as head of the Supreme Court, Novyye izvestiya says, “is a signal that the way the judicial system now functions completely satisfies the current powers that be.” Unless they are changed, Russia’s courts are unlikely to be anytime soon. source: window on eurasia

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