The Embarrassment of Russian Justice

You don’t have to go very far to find an instance of dubious Russian justice.  Only recently a senior judge admitted that she had been pressured by the Kremlin. 

And President Dmitry Medvedev is the first to admit that his country’s justice system is in crisis.  Speaking at a congress of judges last night, Medvedev honed in on the ‘embarrassing‘ fact that one fifth of the cases that have made it to the European Court of Human Rights since 1998 were filed by Russians.  The reason for this?  An abysmally low level of public confidence in the domestic judicial system.

From the New York Times:

Feeling let down or cheated by a domestic court system tainted by corruption and political influence, many Russians have turned to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France — an embarrassment for leaders seeking to remake Russia as a successful and self-sufficient country after years of post-Soviet struggles.

The Strasbourg court, and any international court, with all due respect, cannot and must not take the place of the Russian court system,‘ President Dmitry Medvedev said at a congress of Russian judges. ‘The justice system must be effective enough to bring appeals to international courts to a minimum.

It is difficult to ignore the ironies of such an aim, with the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky being the most glaring example.  How will the Kremlin reassure the public that it has reformed its judicial system with so many still convinced, as the New York Times puts it, that Khodorkovsky’s trial is still ‘widely seen as part of a Kremlin-driven campaign to punish the oil tycoon for perceived challenges and increase state control over the oil industry‘?