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Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Chief Justice and His Russian Lessons

This story raised a chuckle :

Visiting President of Russia’s Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev has called on the judiciary to consider cases in time, according to established laws. Speaking to journalists after arrival from Russia yesterday, Mr Lebedev also advised the judiciary to make honest decisions and ensure timely execution of all judicial decisions.

Mr Lebedev, who is in the country on a four-day official visit, said in the 21st century, the law has become more universal and is getting rid of national purity and national self-contentment. “Today, norms of international law and international agreements are of great importance because the basis for international and internal policies is the law. This concerns the economy and social protection,” Mr Lebedev said. He said the law is important in ensuring that all people have access to justice. Mr Lebedev said this entails that all judicial organs are of high quality and that all court cases are disposed of in time and in line with established laws.

He said his visit to Zambia is on reciprocal basis after Chief Justice Ernest Sakala visited Russia last July. Mr Lebedev said during Mr Justice Sakala’s visit to Russia, they discussed various ways of co-operation in improving delivery of justice in both countries.
You know things are bad when Russia is the place where the Chief Justice goes to learn lessons on "improving delivery of justice". Russia's court system is known for corruption and a lack of independence. The Russian President Dmitry Medvedev  has been trying to implement some judicial reform - but things still look bleak. Last year, one of Russia's Constitutional Court justices agreed to retire and another gave up an official post after he complained that the Kremlin was undermining democratic institutions and judicial independence. In his words, "The strengthening of [Kremlin] authoritarianism is leading to greater judicial dependence...security services can do what they want and all judges can do is ratify their decisions". To think that this is the country we are trying to learn justice from, leaving aside Mr Lebedev's lecture! Who is Mr Sakala going to invite next? Iran? North Korea?

The other thing is that the Russian Justice System is fundamentally different from ours. What can we possibly learn from their system?  I can only hope that Justice Sakala went to Moscow on  a jolly, which is now being reciprocated by Mr Lebedev. That of course is still bad because that trip by Justice Sakala was still a waste of tax payers' money. Unless it was funded by our wonderful donors....

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