Are You an Independent Russian judge? You’re Fired.

“One of the key elements of our work in the next four years will be ensuring the independence of our legal system from the executive and legislative branches of power.”Dmitry Medvedev, Feb. 24, 2008

“Russia should be a democratic state under the rule of law, and this means that all of its citizens, including its leaders, must respect the law. (…) And if the level of legal awareness is not very high in Russia, then it is not the citizens who are to blame, but the state itself.”Vladimir Putin, Feb. 14, 2008

The above quotes from more than 1 year and 9 months ago are just a sample of the many statements which were coming up as I researched our archives following the big news today of two Russian constitutional court judges, Anatoly Kononov and Vladimir Yaroslavtsev, who were forced to resign by the Kremlin.  Their crimes?  Judge Yaroslavtsev gave an interview to Spanish newspaper El Pais, and described Russia’s legislative bodies as “paralysed,” while Kononov rushed to his defense.  I am working on a translation of the El Pais article, while the Telegraph has a strong article.  Below is some information from Oleg Kozlovsky’s blog (hat tip: Russophobe):

Vladimir Yaroslavtsev had to resign yesterday from the Council ofJudges of the Russian Federation and its praesidium, a self-regulatorybody of the Russian judiciary. The reason for that was his August interview with El Pais,in which he harshly criticised the political system built by VladimirPutin. “The judiciary power in Russia during Vladimir Putin’s andDmitry Medvedev’s presidencial terms has become a tool used by theexecutive power,” he claimed. “I feel like I’m standing at the ruins ofjustice,” the judge concluded.

Another member of the Constitutional Court, Anatoly Kononov, evenhas to resign from the court because of his public critical position.For a long time, he was opposing many undemocratic decisions of thecourt by declaring his individual opinion (the right a ConstitutionalCourt judge legally has). He has also criticised these decisions(including the Court’s refusal to examine the cases of MikhailKhodorkovsky and Natalia Morari) in the press. He also tried to defendjudge Yaroslavtsev and to oppose the new order of selecting theChairman of the Constitutional Court (he is now appointed by thePresident and the Senate instead of being elected by the judgesthemselves, as it used to be). As a result, he was forced by hiscolleagues to resign from his post for “undermining the authority ofthe judiciary system.”