Report: Corruption Taints Courts In Russia

A special European investigator issued a stinging report Tuesday that alleges widespread political abuse of the Russian courts and urges countries not to extradite people to Russia if they might be denied a fair trial, The Washington Post reported.

The conclusions by Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a former German justice minister, are likely to further strain Russia’s relations with the Council of Europe, which commissioned the probe and is locked in a standoff with Moscow over the future of the European Court of Human Rights.

Russia joined the council in the 1990s, but it has recently attacked the court’s impartiality and is the lone council member blocking a plan to streamline its operations. The court, based in Strasbourg, France, acts as an appeals panel of last resort for residents of 47 member countries.

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  1. European Watchdog Castigates Courts
    The Moscow Times, 24.06.2009

    Russia’s court system came under a withering attack by Europe’s top human rights watchdog on Tuesday for “politically motivated abuses” that it said have especially victimized two companies, Yukos and the Hermitage Fund.

    Roughly half of the document was devoted to Russia, where it said companies must contend with a litany of abuses, including ” legal nihilism” and judges who are pressured to deliver convictions at any cost.

    The report, which was presented by former German justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, paints a picture of a Russian legal system turned on its head, where judges receive intimidating telephone calls from superiors telling them how to rule in various cases, defense attorneys are threatened and corporations are at the mercy of corrupt law enforcement officials.

    It details a multitude of individual cases, including one of a Moscow region judge who was dismissed — and told by her superiors, in open court, that she “ought to be shot” — after voiding the results of a local election, and a Moscow judge who was given a sentence of 12 years “on very scant evidence” after being charged with participating in a property scam at a time when fighting judicial corruption was given the highest public priority.

    It also mentions the case of opposition lawyer Karina Moskalenko, who feared an attempt on her life after finding a small amount of liquid mercury in her car in Strasbourg last year. It says French police are still investigating the incident, and reports that the car’s previous owner had accidentally broken a thermometer in the vehicle are “not compatible with the amount found.”

  2. No Justice for Business in Russia
    Spiegel, 24.06.2009,1518,632310,00.html

    A new report, from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, titled “Allegations of Politically Motivated Abuses of the Criminal Justice System in Council of Europe Member States” alleges that Russia’s justice system is characterized by “pressure on judges,” frequent “intimidation and reprisals” against defense lawyers, “irregularities in the investigative process,” and “political interference in the criminal justice process.”

    According to the Council of Europe report, the scandals detailed in the report are symptomatic of a more general failure of Russia’s criminal justice system. It remains to be seen how the Russian government will react to these criticisms. But until there is serious action to investigate the alleged abuses, few investors are likely to be convinced by Medvedev’s much touted campaign to clean up Russia’s severely maligned legal system.

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