Eye of the sovereign: what should the Russian prosecutor’s office do in the near future

On January 12, the Russian prosecutor’s office celebrates its professional holiday – the Day of the Prosecutor’s Office. During my long professional career, I have dealt with many representatives of the prosecutor’s office at various levels. As Article 123 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation prescribes, in the vast majority of cases we were procedural opponents, although I also had to represent victims in cases. Then we found ourselves on the same side with prosecutors, and I observed their work, at least in part, from the inside.

Of course, in an adversarial process, especially in a complex and difficult one, relations with a procedural opponent develop in different ways, but I have always seen a professional approach and thorough preparation for the case. Maybe I was just so lucky, but I don’t remember a single case in all the years of my work that my procedural opponent did not know the details of the circumstances of the case that he represented, which, alas, I sometimes had to see with some other participants in the process. And many representatives of the prosecutor’s office, although they were my opponents, had a lot to learn.

So, on my own behalf, I would like to wish the employees of the prosecutor’s office, first of all, health, vitality and patience in their very difficult work, but I will say a little lower about the wishes of the organization as a whole.

It was on January 12 (23rd according to the old style) of January 1722 that the Russian Prosecutor’s Office was established by decree of Peter I. I will not deny myself the pleasure of quoting him: “There should be a prosecutor general and a chief prosecutor in the Senate, as well as in any Collegium for the prosecutor, who will have to report to the prosecutor general.” The task of Peter I was set to “destroy or weaken the evil resulting from disorder in business, injustice, bribery and lawlessness.” Introducing the first Prosecutor General Pavel Ivanovich Yaguzhinsky to the senators, Peter I gave his famous definition of the prosecutor’s office, which we still use now: “Here is my eye, with which I will see everything.”

Since 1802, the institution of the prosecutor’s office became an integral part of the newly formed Ministry of Justice, and the minister of justice became the prosecutor general ex officio.

After the October Revolution, the first “Regulations on Prosecutorial Supervision” was adopted by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK) in 1922 – the People’s Commissariat of Justice included the State Prosecutor’s Office, which was entrusted with a wide range of supervision over legality, maintaining charges in court and a number of other functions. In 1933, the prosecutor’s office became an independent body – the prosecutor’s office of the USSR, which it is now. I think it was then that the status and place of the prosecutor’s office in the system of state authorities became the way we are used to seeing it. The powers of the prosecutor’s office expanded even more, despite the fact that earlier, in 1923, in addition to overseeing various aspects of the activities of the state and society, the prosecutor’s office received the right to initiate legislation, which, alas, it currently does not have at the federal level.

In general, the Soviet era, in my opinion, can be considered the heyday of the prosecutor’s office in our country, when its importance, powers and areas of activity were the most voluminous. Separate articles in the Constitutions of the USSR of 1936 and 1977 were devoted to the prosecutor’s office, and article 9 of the law on the prosecutor’s office of the USSR secured the right of legislative initiative for the Prosecutor General of the USSR.

Modern, post-Soviet legislation on the prosecutor’s office originates from the 1992 law “On the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation”. Unfortunately, since that time, taking into account the ongoing economic reforms in the country, the powers of the prosecutor’s office and its influence, not without the participation of the state, began to decline. Thus, in the law of 1992, supervision over the implementation of laws by citizens was abolished and a ban on the intervention of the prosecutor’s office in economic activity was established. Article 129 of the current Constitution of the Russian Federation is devoted to the Prosecutor’s Office, which states that it is a system of bodies “supervising the observance of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the implementation of laws, supervision of the observance of the rights and freedoms of man and citizen, criminal prosecution in accordance with their powers, as well as performing other functions.

In 2011, in my opinion, a very controversial reform was carried out, according to which the prosecutor’s office ceased to carry out preliminary investigation of criminal cases previously attributed to the jurisdiction of the prosecutor’s office, and investigators disappeared from its staff, and the functions of the investigation in this part were transferred to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation , which also became an independent organization.

Unfortunately, in fact, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation now does not have the right to legislative initiative, but only the right to submit its proposals to the relevant bodies of representative power. Significantly reduced, one might say, minimized the functions of oversight of the investigation. The prosecutor’s office, in my opinion, is overloaded with the performance of secondary functions to the detriment of the main one – the actual supervision of the rule of law in all areas. It seems that the role of the prosecutor’s office in the 90s, and even later, was deliberately belittled so that some citizens feel freer and more at ease in areas in which this is not desirable for the state and society.

Now times are very much, one might say, fundamentally changed. The role of the state in all spheres of our life is growing, and rightly so – this has always happened when Russia-USSR concentrated in order to solve the serious historical tasks facing it. Inevitably, the role of the prosecutor’s office should also grow, not only as a supervisory body or a body that performs the functions of state coercion (and how in a state without it?), but also as one of the main defenders of the rights and freedoms of citizens. We see that relations with the West in general and with Europe in particular have escalated to the limit, and this was not our choice. The arrogant West, after the destruction of the USSR, completely forgot how to recognize the right to its own interests for someone other than itself. One way or another, we had to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and denounce a number of European conventions that have lost their relevance due to the position of Western countries. The latest example is that the President of the Russian Federation submitted to the State Duma a draft law on the denunciation of the Convention on Criminal Liability for Corruption, which was ratified by Russia on July 25, 2006. In these cases, where should citizens and organizations turn to protect their violated rights? To the prosecutor’s office, where else! In fact, the prosecutor’s office will partly have to take on those issues that were regulated by international law.

Another example is the liberated territories of Ukraine, returned to Russia. I am sure that the volume of these territories will increase significantly in the future, but even on the existing ones, after some stabilization of the situation, the restoration of the rule of law will require a lot of work. The activities of the military prosecutor’s office in the conditions of military conflict and mobilization also, as we all see, have sharply increased without permission. And this, in fact, happens in all spheres of our life.

At the same time, at present, I do not observe either a significant increase in the staff of the prosecutor’s office, or a qualitative increase in salaries and other social guarantees for prosecutors. Hence my wishes to the prosecutor’s office as an organization – I wish a significant increase in influence, expansion of staff, the return of vital powers for the state, from the same legislative initiative to more complete supervision of the investigation, a return to the best Russian and Soviet traditions, and in general the return of the prosecutor’s office to its full extent. true purpose – “the eye of the sovereign” and our common protector. Happy holiday, dear fellow lawyers and procedural opponents!

Source of data and images:mk

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