President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, good afternoon.
Mr Lebedev, good afternoon.
I welcome everyone to this traditional annual meeting.
You and I met at the 10th National Congress of Judges in late November last year, when you discussed in detail the pressing issues of developing the judicial system, optimising judicial proceedings and improving the work of the judiciary and the judicial community.
It is important that the decisions adopted following the Congress result in real change, improve the quality of the judicial system and, as a result, make it more accessible and efficient for our citizens to protect their rights, freedoms and legitimate interests. This is the key to Russia's development as a democratic state governed by the rule of law, a country with high social standards, a competitive business climate and an attractive national jurisdiction.
You have an agenda full of important issues today, too. First of all, you will have to analyse and assess the results of the courts' work in 2022 and set priorities for the near future.
I would like to point out that in 2022, the courts heard more than 40 million cases in all types of judicial proceedings, which is one million more than a year earlier. Thus, the workload of judges – first and foremost, of general jurisdiction judges – has increased, and you will have to devise specific measures to optimise it.
Establishing uniform court practice is also very important. We have noted on more than one occasion the need to ensure that Russian justice is socially-oriented, and it is very important that this trend continues.
The Supreme Court has comprehensively analysed judicial practice in cases involving the protection of children's rights, for example, in its plenary rulings and reviews of the Presidium adopted over the past year. It clarified a number of essential issues relating to the protection of labour and pension rights of citizens and many other sensitive matters for our society.
Notably, a number of legislative resolutions on social support for military personnel and mobilised citizens and their families have been adopted recently, and corresponding amendments have been made to the procedural legislation.
They include additional grounds for suspending legal proceedings, including instances when a citizen who is a party to a case is participating in combat operations as part of the Armed Forces or other military formations or performs tasks in a state of emergency or martial law.
Please note that any consideration of such cases and issues should be carried out thoroughly with respect not only to the legal aspects, but also to specific life circumstances and situations. The rights of our military personnel and their families must be protected to the fullest extent of the law.
Another serious issue that you will need to discuss, as far as I know, is the introduction of IT into legal proceedings. Recently, in December 2022, the Criminal Procedure Code was amended. The amendments regulate the procedure for conducting a court session in the criminal process in a videoconference format.
It is absolutely clear that the use of “digital” in legal proceedings will expand, and our judicial system must be fully prepared for this – technically and organisationally – and, most importantly, citizens’ constitutional rights must be strictly observed.
Through law enforcement practice, the judiciary has always helped create a favourable business and investment climate in our country. Today, amid the sanctions aggression – there is no other way to say it – against Russia, this is especially important.
In this regard, the question of legislative guarantees for the protection of businesspeople from unjustified criminal prosecution, including a ban on extending the period for detaining suspects or individuals accused of crimes in the economic sphere, as well as the choice of preventive measures comes up again. For example, bail or house arrest could be used instead of isolation from society. This will promote the humanisation of justice.
And, finally, one more matter of principle. As you are aware, last March, Russia withdrew from the Council of Europe, and in September it withdrew from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.
The reasons for these steps are well known; they are obvious and do not need any special comment. Some ECHR rulings have become openly politicised. True, it was a while back, but it has taken on an absolutely unacceptable character lately. Bias and partiality, no matter how they may be justified, are absolutely unacceptable for the judiciary.
Then, federal laws were adopted here, according to which the ECHR rulings which entered into force after March 15, 2022, are not enforceable in Russia.
Moreover, amendments have been made to our procedural legislation regarding the revision of judicial acts adopted by Russian courts on the basis of the ECHR rulings.
Thus, provisions to the effect that the ECHR rulings are the basis for revising judicial acts that have entered into force on new or newly discovered circumstances have been excluded from the procedural codes.
Of course, the legal community and sensible people around the country started thinking about the consequences of our decisions, and a discussion ensued. The question was put bluntly: would withdrawal from the ECHR entail a decrease in the level of protection of the rights and freedoms of our country’s citizens. I will not hide it, I have thought about this too, because we must ensure the interests of citizens in any case. But in the end, I believe, our judicial system can reliably protect both rights and freedoms using national judicial mechanisms.
Clearly, any state system and any part of a state mechanism have issues that require special attention. But in order to do everything that is in the interests of our state and our citizens (everything that is in the interests of citizens is in the interests of the state), one has to use every tool and legal mechanism available in the interests of our people and, to reiterate, the sovereign development of Russia in general.
I am sure that your meeting will be held in a constructive and business-like manner, and its decisions will further improve the quality of the work of the courts and the efficiency and accessibility of justice.
I wish you productive work and every success.
Thank you for your attention.