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Medvedev’s Opportunity

This editorial in the Financial Times argues that despite facing the expected opposition, President Dmitry Medvedev should leap upon the opportunity of the death of Sergei Magnitsky to make serious reforms to both prison conditions and the functioning of the judiciary.  Not to hold our breath, but it is always good to see an attempt at reform.

The authorities are now rattled. President Dmitry Medvedev, himself an ex-lawyer, last week ordered an inquiry even before the prison service made its admission.

Given the repeated pledges he has made to enforce the rule of law, Mr Medvedev should seize on the Magnitsky case to put his words into action. He should start by reviewing conditions in prisons, where deaths are all too common, and overhauling the interior ministry to make its officials accountable before the courts.

Unfortunately, he will face overwhelming opposition. The authoritarian state created by Vladimir Putin, the prime minister and former president, has allowed officials to see themselves as above the law. Corruption and abuse of power have flourished, as has a woeful neglect of the rights of ordinary citizens. Imposing the rule of law on this self-serving bureaucracy would mean tearing it down. The governing elite will simply not destroy its political and financial power in this way.