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Conference of Russian judges calls for eradication of judicial corruption
Source: Kommersant, Moscow, in Russian 17 Jun 03

Top judges of Russia have called on their colleagues to expose corrupt judges themselves. The following is the text of article by Yekaterina Zapodinskaya, headlined "Judges fear for their immunity. That is why they have announced a fight against corruption" by Russian newspaper Kommersant on 17 June:

A conference of chairmen of councils of judges of the constituent parts of the Russian Federation began in the President Hotel yesterday [16 June]. The speakers called on their colleagues to expose corrupt judges themselves before all judges are deprived of immunity.

The conference was opened by Supreme Court head Vyacheslav Lebedev, who said:

"I was recently giving a report on the subject of corruption in the judiciary at a conference of supreme court chairmen in Washington. I appeal to you: Create an atmosphere of intolerance of actions that disgrace the honour and dignity of a judge. Every such episode generates sharp indignation in society. Because there are few of us and we have an unusually large purview. But we can ensure that there are fewer dishonest people in the courts."

Yuriy Sidorenko, chairman of the council of Russian Federation judges and Supreme Court judge, added to Mr Lebedev's comments, saying:

"There are some gentlemen among us who, exploiting the guarantees of independence, do direct harm both to citizens and to the judicial system as a whole. Publicity in such cases leads to a situation whereby even our allies, who condemn the restriction of judges' independence, start to have second thoughts. This may end with a counter-reform - Russia has already had this experience."

Corruption among district court judges during the examination of lawsuits brought by shareholders against joint-stock companies, and particularly when so-called measures to ensure the security of the lawsuits are taken (banning holding meetings of the joint-stock company and others), has, according to Vyacheslav Lebedev, become the talk of the town. Legislators have even been forced to remove these cases from the purview of the district courts and transfer them to handling by the arbitration system. However, as Mr Lebedev stated yesterday, in spite of the fact that since last August district courts no longer have the right to examine such lawsuits, some judges are still taking them on and sometimes, by their rulings, are paralysing the work of the legal entities that are the defendants.

"These cases are not even just sweetened with honey," the Supreme Court chairman remarked ironically. "I would really ask you to sort this out, please. You understand yourselves what can be behind this."

Towards the end of his speech, Mr Lebedev said that he has asked Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov to conduct an investigation into one case like this. For their part the General Prosecutor's Office told Kommersant that the Supreme Court passes fairly light sentences on corrupt judges. For instance, Judge Lyubov Kravtsova of Rostov Region Krasnosulinskiy City Court was given a five-year suspended sentence for receiving bribes to the tune of 850 dollars, whereas the article in the Criminal Code envisages actual imprisonment from seven to 12 years for bribery. And Judge Viktor Romanov of Volgograd's Dzerzhinskiy Court was sentenced to three years for taking bribes to the tune of R9,000, and was immediately amnestied. (He was given the money to pass a non-custodial sentence on a robber).

Veniamin Yakovlev, chairman of the Supreme Court of Arbitration, will address the conference on Wednesday [18 June]. Kommersant will write about this.

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