Sunday, July 28, 2019

Illegal Convictions, the Exception in Soviet Times, Now the Norm, Kostanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – “Illegal sentences occurred in Soviet times too, but if then such sentences were more the exception to the rules, today they have become the norm, including those supported by the falsification of the most varied pieces of evidence,” according to Yury Kostanov, a lawyer who is a member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society.

            The lawyer began his career as an investigator for the procuracy in Soviet times. Then, if an investigator did not agree with the written guidance of a procurator, he could protest and the guidance would either be reversed or the case handed overto another investigator. That arrangement significantly limited violations of the law by investigators (

            Today, Kostanov says, this arrangement no longer exists. And one consequence of that has been a wave of suicides by investigators who are directed to violate the law by their superiors who often are acting on behalf of one or another group with the powers that be and see no way out except to end their lives.

            Two additional reasons for the growing number of cases where the outcomes violate the laws are that investigators are evaluated in terms of the number of convictions their work leads to and that the courts will accept almost anything the investigators submit however improbable.  Investigators thus know they will get preferment by violating the laws.

            Many reforms are needed to change this situation, Kostanov says, beginning with better judges who feel empowered to challenge evidence that is manufactured or otherwise faulty, with better supervision of investigators by the procuracy as they once were, and with better quality investigators who know the law. No many do not and just follow orders.

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