Prosecutor General exposed

Publish date: August 1, 2000

Written by: Jon Gauslaa

With the appeal against the acquittal of Aleksandr Nikitin, the Russian Prosecutor General exposes himself as a major obstacle for a development towards the rule of law in Russia.

The Russian legal system is – on paper – based on the rule of law. The appeal of the Prosecutor General against the acquittal of Aleksandr Nikitin does, however, show that the Russian prosecuting authorities have huge problems with accepting this fact.

The opinion that the Prosecutor General in reality advocates in the appeal is that a Russian Court is not allowed to interpret the law independently, which only leaves it with one alternative: To enter upon the law interpretation of the prosecution. Thus, the appeal is nothing but a fierce attack of the independence of Russian Courts.

On earlier stages of the Nikitin case there was reason to believe that the major obstacle for a positive development of the Russian legal system was the lack of understanding for the rule of law within the FSB and lower levels of the prosecuting authorities.

Now the obstacle has been raised to the top of the prosecuting authorities. This is indeed an alarming development, which the Presidium of the Supreme Court is obliged to stop. The Presidium has no other lawful alternative. Besides, the development towards a Russian legal system based on the rule of law will face an almost unbridgeable obstacle if it does not. Then the prosecuting authorities will be able to continue to practice the kind of oppressive prosecutions that characterised the legal system of the Soviet Union.

However, both the City Courts’ and the Supreme Courts’ verdict, and also a number of other recent Russian Court decisions, show that there is an increasing level of independence and understanding for the basic principles of the rule of law among Russian judges. Hopefully the Presidium will fortify this tendency on August 2.

Nevertheless, the position of the Prosecutor General demonstrates that there still are many rivers to cross before Russia is a country that also in reality is based on the rule of law.