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Grigory Pasko: Rule of Law, But Without Juries

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The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation recently issued a decree, according to which the conducting of judicial processes [trials] on a charge of terrorism without the participation of jurors was recognized as legal. The court likewise withdrew from the competence of jury trials criminal cases of the crimes prescribed in the Criminal Code by articles 206 “Capture of hostages”, 208 “Organization and participation in an unlawful armed formation”, 212 “Mass disturbances”, 275 “State treason”, 276 “Espionage”, 278 “Forcible capture of power or forcible retention of power”, 279 “Armed insurrection” and 281 “Diversion” [Russian for “Sabotage”–Trans.]. In the document, it is noted that a jury trial is not attributable to the number of fundamental rights, ones like the independence of the court or the presumption of innocence.

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Then I heard today on the radio the appearance of chairman of the Constitutional Court of the RF Valery Zorkin, who brought as an example a series of countries, including the USA, France, Germany, Spain, Great Britain, who have likewise introduced substantial correctives into their procedural legislation, connected with cases with respect to terrorism.

“This is not a crusade against democracy, this is a crusade indefense of democracy”, – said Zorkin, noting that it is precisely thesecountries and Russia that have suffered more than others fromterroristic manifestations.

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Indeed, terrorism – is a great evil and danger for the entire world.But for some reason only in Russia after terrorist acts do democraticgains get instantly rolled back. And as for Zorkin…I recall that it washe, the chairman of the Constitutional Court, who had justified therepeal of the 4-year presidential term by some kind of expediency. Youwould think he should be standing up in defense of the Constitution, andnot on positions of changing it and narrowing its scope.

Personally, I would not have expected any other decision from the CC.After all, amendments in connection with this question were introducedsuper-quickly into the Code of Criminal Procedure way back in Decemberof the year 2008.

We should not forget that the judicial processes of persons accusedunder the above-mentioned – these are closed-door trials. With theapplication of the know-how of Russian justice in the form of verdictswith the classification «top secret».

From my own experience and from the experience of studying thematerials of other criminal cases I know that a closed-door trial -this, as a rule, is a falsified process, called upon to conceal anabominable investigation from the point of view of the CCP [Code ofCriminal Procedure]. In a jury trial such an investigation does notwithstand criticism, hence – the high percentage of not-guilty verdictsdecreed with the participation of a collegium of jurors.

In recent years, we were becoming witnesses to the near-completereversal by the Supreme Court of the not-guilty verdicts of jury courts.I recently came across a case from Vladivostok, where the jurors hadacquitted a person, while the Supreme Court reversed it per a cassationsubmission of the military procuracy. At the basis of the cassationsubmission lay a lying memorandum about one of the jurors. The liepassed in the Supreme Court, more precisely in the military collegium ofthe Supreme Court. Such an impression that chairman of the SupremeCourt Vyacheslav Lebedev does not notice this, although he did once saysuch a phrase: «As practice shows, jurors do not err».

The Constitutional Court of the RF decided that the right to a jurytrial is not attributable to the number of fundamental human rights. Ina country where people die in investigative isolators before trial,where the rights of people are violated everywhere, and the right tolife will soon become not attributable to the number of fundamentalones.

The argumentation of the decision of the CC, by the way, is extremelyweak (not for nothing did two judges – Yaroslavtsev and Hajiyev – notagree with this decisions). They say we need to protect jurors. Well,then protect them the way you protect judges. (The fact that nobody isable to protect judges in our country either, well, that’s anotherstory).

Another argument: jurors are impressionable and read newspapers.Well, of course, judges in our country don’t read newspapers. It’s agood thing they still haven’t prohibited journalists from writing abouttrials. By the way, I think that this prohibition is still ahead forus. There will come a time, and in our country the mass informationmedia will be using only those press releases that will come to themfrom the court. Truth, so to speak, in the last – the judicial -instance.

If jurors are impressionable and influence can be exerted on them – on12 people – then, following this strange logic, it is more complex toexert pressure on one single judge?

Another argument: the elevated complexity of cases in contemporaryconditions. One asks: complexity for whom? For dense investigatorsand state prosecutors? Well, for them many cases are complex,especially if you force them to observe the CC [Criminal Code] and theCCP. (The thickheadedness of procurators is easily visible to everybodyin the judicial process of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev lasting not thefirst year).

It is too late to be crying about the death of the institution ofjurors: one should have reacted earlier. Even in those times when theywere trying the scientists Igor Sutyagin and Valentin Danilov, and whenmanipulations of the composition of the jury courts were taking places.They picked out three collegiums for each, and it got to the pointwhere they were stuffing chekists into the compositions for the adoptionof the needed decision. And now the chekists don’t even need to break asweat – “their own” judge will issue the needed verdict, making use ofthe terminology of the hero of the film «Brilliantovaya ruka» [TheDiamond Arm–Trans.]and our premier, «widdout noise and dust».

There is also another opinion – that of the jurist Elena Lukyanova,MGU [Moscow State University professor:  «Restriction of the competence of a jury court – this is restriction ofthe control of society over justice, which is in a lamentable state inour country».

It’s hard not to agree with this opinion…