Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Only One Russian in a Thousand Tried in Court is Not Found Guilty, Moscow Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 2 – Only one Russian in a 1000 who is charged with a crime and goes to trial is either found not guilty or has his case dismissed, according to a new government report that indicates the share of those found guilty is actually higher than that because many who are charged plead guilty before trial.

            Izvestiya has a copy of that report, its journalist Anna Ivushkina says; and she reports that the court authorities are not displeased with this outcome but say that the figure should be adjusted because approximately 80 percent of all charges never reach a courtroom (

            According to the report, Ivushkina continues, 1.05 court cases out of a 1,000 do not result in a finding of guilty. If investigators from the interior ministry or the federal bailiffs agency are involved, that figure is only 0.35. Government officials are pleased that this shows how effective the investigators in fact are. 

            The figure for 2017 is lower than the 1.31 per 1,000 in 2013 but higher than the 0.73 per 1,000 for 2916. As for full exonerations, that figure stood at 0.52 per 1,000 in 2013 and fell to ug0.34 last year. 

            The Investigative Committee of Russia refused to comment on the statistics; but the interior ministry said the low figures were the product of changes in the criminal code in 2007 which have allowed prosecutors to make better decisions about whom they should bring to trial. Consequently, the rate of convictions for those prosecutors do has gone up.

            The press service of the Supreme Court, Ivushkina says, suggested that the figures should be put in context.  “Every year,” it said, “approximately five million hypothetic crimes are identified by the organs.” Of these, however, about half are simply not pursued. If that is taken into consideration, about 80 percent of those initially suspected are found not guilty.

            But many experts disagree. Tatyana Moskalkova, the presidential human rights ombudsman, says that the number of those found not guilty must be increased, something that requires a change in the attitude of juries and judges who often think that a finding of innocence is a criticism of the police and authorities. “This should not be.”

            Mara Polyakova, an expert with the Human Rights Council, says that courts in most countries find about 20 percent of those brought before a judge and/or a jury not guilty, twenty times the Russian figure.  Russian juries, however, do bring in such findings closer to what should be the case than judges do.

            And Aleksandr Ionov, the Russian vice president of the UN Committee on Human Rights, agrees. He says that judges in Russia “practically always” defer to the prosecution.  As a result, on many occasions, those charged in Russian courts can get justice only in the Supreme Court or in the European Court for Human Rights.

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