[JURIST] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile] promised Tuesday to take steps to tackle corruption and intimidation in the Russian judicial system, calling for reforms to better train and support judges and to preserve the rule of law. Speaking at a meeting of top Russian legal officials, Medvedev said [remarks]:
Our main objective is to achieve independence for the judicial system. It is a well-known principle that courts must be subject to the law, and, indeed, this is the basis of respect for justice and for the belief in its fairness. This is our basic task and it is hugely important. To move in this direction, we need to consider a range of issues associated with preparing a series of measures aimed at eliminating the miscarriage of justice. As we all know, when justice fails it often does so because of pressure of various kinds, such as surreptitious phone calls and money – there is no point in beating around the bush. We also need to establish measures to accelerate decision-making where this is possible. I mean eliminating red tape but of course without adversely affecting the functioning of the system.
We need to clarify a number of regulations and make changes in legislation, perhaps those concerning qualifications for the bar and terms of office. I think that we'll talk about amending the law on magistrates and the Code of Administrative Offences.
There is the separate but perennial question of financial and logistical support for the courts. In this regard we have done some things, but a great deal more remains to be done. We know how important electronic forms are for the receipt and introduction of evidence, and the role they play in the process as a whole. I'm thinking of Moscow and many of our larger cities; in many others this is not the case. Therefore, I believe this is also one of the most important objectives for improving justice in our country.
Another important subject for the judiciary is personnel, and this is a crucial issue. Certainly, we have a good system for training them, but in recent years – and this is no secret; there has been a torrent of new lawyers, weaker law schools have become pre-eminent, and as a consequence there has been an exodus of specialists from the system. It is obvious that these new people are making decisions that affect human lives. In this sense, we must also improve the education system in the country and think about ways of introducing more uniformity in legal training.
In other words, we need to introduce some significant, maybe even radical changes in legislation concerning the judicial system. The main reference point for us is the independence of the courts and their effectiveness.
Experts have noted that corruption is rife in Russian courts, and that judges' pay and status are too low to resist pressure to accept bribes. Reuters has more.
Medvedev's remarks come after he signed a measure [JURIST report] Monday to establish an anti-corruption council to be headed by Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin [profile, in Russian]. Medvedev said that a comprehensive national anti-corruption program was necessary to tackle social and economic graft and also to eliminate a prevailing culture of corruption. Medvedev previously pledged to clean up corruption in his inauguration speech [JURIST report].