Chechnya discards Russian law.


11 October 2011

The Chechen Republic is beyond the Russian legal framework. Lawyers of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG) of Russian human rights defenders have once again realized this, having studied the judgment of the Supreme Court of the Republic.

Chairman of the Chechen Supreme Court Z.S. Zaurbekov has considered the supervisory appeal of JMG lawyers and decided that only members of the bar can represent victims and claimants in court.

Such decision is rather unexpected. The court chairman has not noticed the discrepancy between his decision and p.1 of Article 45 of the Russian Criminal Procedure Code stipulating that parties can be represented not only by members of the bar, but by other persons the victim or claimant wish to be represented by, as well as numerous Constitutional Court judgments confirming such option. The Constitutional Court of Russia has many times explicitly underlined – apparently, for such judges as Mr.Zaurbekov – that other interpretations of this provision are not possible.

However, the Chechen Supreme Court judge does not care for law. We have got an impression that he delivered his decision, being guided by some other regulation, not by the federal one. All references to Russian Constitutional Court judgments given by JMG lawyers in the supervisory appeal have been ignored – Zaurbekov’s position contradicts both the position of the Russian Constitutional Court and federal law. Let alone extensive case law based on these norms. The Chechen Supreme Court chairman’s decision runs counter to legislation and law enforcement practice.

The judgment delivered by the Chechen Supreme Court chairman means that Chechnya residents cannot seek help of lawyers other than members of the bar, which, first of all, discriminates them against other Russian citizens who do have such a right, and second, deprives many Chechen residents of legal assistance altogether, since as we all know, members of the bar do not work free of charge.

It cannot be exclude that the above mentioned circumstance has predetermined the chairman’s decision. The less affordable legal aid is, the fewer complaints there will be, meaning reduced workload. At the same time, the issue of legal protection is clearly not the priority of the Chechen Supreme Court.

Of course, human rights defenders will address the problem with due attention. In the nearest future they will lodge a supervisory appeal to the Russian Supreme Court which will surely return Chechen residents their rights.

The worst thing is that the given situation is just another example illustrating that Chechen law enforcement and judicial authorities are acting beyond the legal framework of the Russian Federation, which definitely raises serious concerns.

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