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No one is sacred: Russia's prosecutors could be entitled to investigate elites

Published time: July 17, 2012 20:04
Edited time: July 18, 2012 00:04

Reuters/Jason Reed

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In a new anti-corruption twist, Russia could introduce a special board of prosecutors entitled to investigate officials as high as Supreme Court judges, the prime minister or the president. A draft of the law has been submitted to the State Duma.

­The new board of prosecutors, as the draft bill says, will be able to go after officials that have otherwise been immune to investigation: the country’s president and ex-presidents, the General Prosecutor, the head of the Investigative Committee, MPs and so on.

What can push the proposed board into action? “The public’s profound negative reaction,” demonstrated in streams of complaints to the president or the parliament, according to the draft. The prosecutors would then look into damage to the public’s constitutional rights and freedoms.

The bill is set to fight corruption and “political extremism based on the assumption the political elite is immune to prosecution,” notes a comment to the draft law. The board, which is to consist of independent, experienced lawyers, will convene specially for each case.

The authors of the draft say that another reason to draft such a law was public doubts over the impartiality and completeness of investigations of high-profile crimes, such as the 2004 terror act in the southern city of Beslan, which took 334 lives with 186 children among them.

The committee would be 17-strong with the following makeup: five people put forward by the president; five by the State Duma; five by the Federation Council, the upper house of Parliament; and two by the human rights ombudsman.

Critics say this is far from an independent board, and as such its ability to fairly and impartially challenge authorities seems unlikely. Others grimly add that the draft law looks like another twist in the standoff between the General Prosecutor’s office and the Investigative Committee.

The draft law will land in Russia’s lower chamber as soon as this autumn.

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