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The Low Prestige of Russian Justice

From a very interesting article by Charles Glover in the Financial Times, more evidence of Russia’s “dual state” of functioning courts and non-functioning political courts:

“If you get a ruling from a high court in London, it is seen as a real moral victory, whereas a judgment in Russia is just a judgment in Russia,” says Dmitry Dobatkin, a partner at Linklaters law firm in Moscow. It is like confirmation of being in the right, versus winning a narrow legal victory.” The prestige of the Russian justice system is low. This is partly because of a reputation for bribery and being vulnerable to political interference, partly because the court system is crowded and delays are endemic. In addition, there have been high-profile cases where experts believe justice was not done and the courts functioned as an arm of the executive. Rising to this challenge, Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev – who worked as a lawyer before entering politics – has made legal reform part of his agenda, and even coined the buzzword “legal nihilism” in an interview after his inauguration, vowing to reform the system. (…)

There have been some high-profile miscarriages of justice, however, as in the case brought against Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003, which is widely regarded as politically inspired by the billionaire oil man’s enemies in the Kremlin.“While I believe there may have been real violations, it highlighted the fact that everybody is more or less at the mercy of the regime,” says Valery Fedichin, a partner at Magisters, a law firm that works in Russia and other countries in the region.The legal system, he says, is about “50 per cent fair”.