OREANDA-NEWS. June 09, 2012. Vladimir Putin announced that he had signed a set of documents aimed at improving the judicial system and increasing the social status of judges, as well as amending the law On Assemblies, Rallies, Demonstrations, Processions and Picketing.

Before the meeting, the President inspected the new building of the St Petersburg City Court, the construction of which began in 2008 as part of the Development of the Judicial System in Russia Federal Targeted Programme for 2007-2012.

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We have gathered today to talk about further development of Russia’s judicial system.

Much has been done recently; a number of decisions were made pertaining to the democratisation of our judicial system, to relaxing and democratising individual aspects of the penal system’s functions. All these decisions were made with your direct participation, with many things initiated by Mr Medvedev; they were implemented and were generally well accepted by our society.

But, of course, we must think about further steps to develop our judicial system. Today, I suggest that we talk about all these issues comprehensively, including the development of the physical infrastructure of the judicial system, which is a fairly important aspect in the development of the entire system since physical infrastructure is not only for the people working within the judicial system; first and foremost, its development is important for people who come to judicial system offices; it is, first and foremost, about respect for our citizens.

Our meeting, as I have already said, is being held in the new building of the St Petersburg City Court. We began its construction in 2008, and now it is being opened. You are probably already familiar with it. It has four buildings. We built this entire complex during the rather difficult years of crisis – 2008, 2009, and 2010. Much was done, and now we will talk about it in more detail.

The programme this work was done under was intended for 2007-2012, and this year, its financing will come to an end. Although a great deal was accomplished, many problems still remain, even in terms of creating a modern physical infrastructure for the judicial system.

But nevertheless, I want to emphasise that today, in practically every region, every federal constituent entity of the Russian Federation, the courts are getting comfortable buildings with new office and computer equipment. The judges and court administration staff can now make greater use of their electronic databases and archives. Incidentally, a whole complex has been created here for archiving cases and everything is generally equipped at a state-of-the-art level.

But we need to keep our focus on reconstruction of old buildings – there are still many of them – and on construction of new court buildings and consolidation of their engineering capabilities. The funds are already allocated, as I mentioned, but in 2012, the judicial system development programme will end. Still, in 2012, we are allotting six billion rubles for these purposes within the framework of this programme.

New buildings and modern equipment are not simply a technical issue, as I have said before. They affect the quality of our legal proceedings, society’s trust in the court and its decisions; this is widely the case. We need to upgrade and improve the common, open database of all judicial decisions and in the long term, we should introduce the practice of streaming court sessions online when it is possible and justified, and publishing proceedings transcripts. This kind of transparency in proceedings will certainly increase judges’ sense of responsibility, narrowing the opportunity for any kind of subjective approach to making decisions.

Clearly, open access will allow for the comparison and analysis of decisions made in courts on similar cases but with different participants. It will immediately become apparent how different professionals are working, where the judges’ reasoning is clear and based on law and practice, and where it is based on unclear logic.

I feel it is imperative to also note the importance of creating normal working conditions in judicial journalism. All questions, from accreditation to transfer of materials, should be resolved promptly and by modern means. This approach will broaden opportunities for the public discussion of current legal problems and issues, and will promote the growth of legal awareness and legal culture among our citizens.

As you know, the State Duma has adopted a law on rallies and demonstrations, which I signed this morning. Earlier this morning, I spoke with chair of the human rights council [the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights] Mikhail Fedotov. He conveyed some concerns among NGOs regarding this law; but I not only signed the law, I also carefully examined the materials sent over by the State Duma comparing our law with similar legislative acts of other European nations: Germany, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and France. Judging by these materials, our law does not have a single provision that is harsher than the measures stipulated in similar laws in the nations I mentioned.

In addition, I want to draw your attention to the fact that law enforcement practice in this case must not in any way limit the democratic rights of our citizens to express themselves and communicate their positions on any issues in domestic and foreign policy, including through the use of street demonstrations, actions, rallies and so on. But all this must be organised so as not to disturb other citizens who are not participating in those actions.

Moreover, we recall what happened in certain European nations such as Great Britain, in London, when there were mass riots, cars were set on fire, and shops were looted. The police then spent an entire year seeking out the instigators of these events, and all of them were summoned to face trial. But while society guarantees some citizens the right to express their views, including through street actions, it must protect other citizens and society overall from radicalism.

In addition, I am asking you to analyse this law and to look at it from every point of view – both in terms of substance and its enforcement – and then present your suggestions. Nothing here is set in stone. If we discover that the Duma deputies overlooked anything, that something may be presented differently, then by all means, we can meet with State Duma deputies, see how this law will be applied, and ask them to make amendments – again, if it turns out that there is any need to do this.

In any case, by giving this example I want to point out that we need to resolve issues of this kind, discuss them and put them for public discussion, making sure that the dialogue is as open as possible.

Of course, our most important task is to assure that the courts are staffed with top-notch personnel. I have said this many times and want to say it again: the people upholding the laws, acting on behalf of the state and defending justice should be competent, principled and decent; they should be professionals who are well aware of their responsibility for every decision made. There should be no laymen in this system, and careless, ignorant people should be removed as quickly as possible (such people can appear in any system).

For its part, the government will continue increasing the social status of judges. Their salaries had not risen since 2004. I want to let you know that I have signed the Executive Order On Salary Increase for Judges in the Russian Federation, which increases the salary of judges by six percent from October 1 of this year.

Colleagues, I am certain that the body of measures and steps we are adopting will make Russia’s judicial system even more professional, open, and most importantly, efficient in its work for the good of the Russian citizens, assuring their rights and legal interests.