Head of the Supreme Council of the United Russia Party and Speaker of the State Duma Boris Gryzlov: There is one issue of considerable significance at the moment. A draft law was submitted to the State Duma in September 2009, on amending Article 35 of the Russian Federation Criminal Procedure Code. The amendment concerns jurisdiction in cases involving crimes of a terrorist nature.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, this was my draft law, a presidential draft law.
Boris Gryzlov: We examined it in the first reading on September 25. This is unquestionably a very important law. It proposes that in situations where the personal safety of participants in the courtroom hearing or their close relatives is under threat the Prosecutor General can petition that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation accept to take the case under its own jurisdiction.
Now we are discussing this law’s progress from here. We have to prepare it for the second reading [in the State Duma]. We see at least two problems with it.
First, in this situation, the participants in the court case would not have the possibility of appealing the Supreme Court’s ruling because the Supreme Court is the court of highest instance, and second, there would not be the possibility of jury trials. We therefore propose examining the possibility of transferring jurisdiction in such cases not only to the Supreme Court, but also to district military courts, and accordingly establishing a system of jury trials in the district military courts. This would require amending this draft law and a number of others regulating the military courts’ activities and the selection of jurors.
We wanted to consult with you on whether we can take this road. If we do act this way, it would make it possible to appeal lower courts’ rulings in the Supreme Court, and also use the jury trial system in full measure.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you for bringing us back to this draft law, because it is indeed important. As a member of the Russian Federation Security Council you recall the meetings of the Council in Sochi [on August 21, 2009] and Stavropol [on August 19, 2009], where we spoke about counterterrorism efforts and the need to amend a number of laws, including those concerning territorial jurisdiction in criminal cases involving terrorism. My legislative initiative was the result of those discussions.
It seems a good thing if your proposals really can improve the law’s quality — and what you suggest looks at first glance perfectly reasonable: say, giving defendants the additional possibility in these cases of being able to appeal to the Supreme Court, and also making full use of the jury system – while at the same time preserving the law’s essence. The law’s original aim was to ensure that jurors would not be afraid to pass guilty or not guilty verdicts on people facing criminal prosecution in the regions confronting the greatest difficulties in terms of the terrorism situation. The idea was to avoid such problems by transferring these cases to other jurisdictions.
It seems like a reasonable proposal to have district military courts, for example, using jury trials, take these cases under their jurisdiction.
In principle, I think this is an interesting proposal. Let’s do as follows: I will consult with the Presidents of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court to hear their views on how well this idea could fit with our court system’s overall organisation, and also on the constitutionality of these kinds of amendments. If their response is positive, I will call you and propose making the improvements you have suggested, but through the party mechanism for organising this kind of work, that is to say, through the parliamentary faction. In this case, I will not submit new amendments in addition to what I have already submitted, but rather, you yourselves will improve this draft law along the lines you have outlined, acting in coordination with the Presidential Executive Office, of course. Is that agreed?
Boris Gryzlov: Yes.
Dmitry Medvedev: This is indeed an important matter.
Boris Gryzlov: Thank you.