President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues,
Today you need to engage in a comprehensive analysis of the activities of the Prosecutor’s Office in 2009 and discuss not only current but long-term objectives, with a view to strengthening the rule of law in our country.
The Prosecutor’s Office is called upon to defend the rule of law, the rights and freedoms of our citizens, promote the democratic development of our country and preserve the unity of economic and legal spaces in our country.
It is the result of your work that many people look at when judging the government’s ability to restore order, fight corruption, ensure the uniform application of laws in our country and, most importantly, guarantee the fundamental legal principle of the inevitability of punishment for those who break the law.
Over the years, the Prosecutor’s Office has been actively involved in this work and its agencies have done much to help us deal with the challenges that we face. I will not give you specific numbers at this point so as not to pre-empt the Prosecutor General’s [Yury Chaika] report, except to say that in a very difficult situation (last year was very difficult, and this year is still fraught with problems) the timely intervention of the Prosecutor’s Office has helped to prevent serious social and economic consequences, that is, helped to preserve our country's economic and social stability.
This does not mean that this year we can relax, but rather that what we did on a regular basis last year – my meetings with the Prosecutor General, our discussions of this subject, the fact that we repeatedly considered these subjects during our trips – had the desired effect. We made considerable progress on such difficult and painful issues as the prevention of corruption and the investigation of a number of what came to be known as high-profile crimes. In this regard I would like to thank those who work in your Office for their work and the faithful discharge of their official duties.
However, as you know perfectly well, the activities of prosecutors, along with those of the country’s entire judicial system, are always at the centre of public attention, and such issues as protection against despotism, corruption and ensuring personal safety, are of concern for almost every family. Therefore, the Prosecutor’s Office should focus on specific priorities, which I would like to enumerate here.
First, we need to coordinate more effectively the efforts of the different law enforcement agencies in combating crime. This is a key task of the Prosecutor's Office.
In February the Interior Ministry Board pointed out that, despite the downward trend in the number of crimes (about seven percent less than last year), the criminal situation in the country remains very serious indeed. Nearly half of all crimes remain unsolved, and the rules concerning the reporting and registration of crimes, as well as the criminal investigation period deadlines still go unobserved – this is a chronic disease, as you know perfectly well. There are an extraordinary number of such violations, and they undermine the rights of victims, defendants and others involved in this process.
At the Interior Ministry Board I just mentioned, I announced the beginning of large-scale reforms in the Ministry. Such reforms are long overdue, but they are finally taking place because a number of external causes, including various crimes, have received considerable publicity and have adversely affected the authority of the Interior Ministry. All this is evidence of violations of the law in the Ministry itself, and problems involved in the monitoring of its activities on the part of prosecutors’ agencies.
In accordance with the law On the Police Force, the Prosecutor General and his subordinates shall exercise supervision over the activities of the police. You should pay attention not only to the way the laws regulating crime detection and investigation are observed, but also to the sort of everyday things to which we often fail to attach much significance, namely fulfilling the requirements of the laws governing the hiring of police officers, their service in the Interior Ministry’s agencies, as well as enforcing compliance with social safeguards established for law enforcement officers.
Furthermore, in last year’s Presidential Address, I instructed you to deal with the issue of changes in the criminal law and changes in criminal procedure law. There are a number of such changes, some of which have already been adopted and a number that are currently going through the State Duma. These include the recommendation that punishment in the form of detention should be imposed only on high-risk suspects or defendants. Not long ago I introduced a bill on this subject. I would like to see an effective procedure in place to monitor the compliance with this legislation in the sphere of criminal prosecution.
Which leads to our second major challenge: although the most acute phase of the global crisis is already behind us (at least we hope it is), we need to pay special attention to the enforcement of legislation on the employment of our citizens. Unemployment, a subject that I have touched on repeatedly, is a major social challenge for us today and the main threat to social stability.
We need to monitor compliance with legislation on employment in general and with labour legislation, and ensure that regional programmes for the creation of new jobs are implemented. This is an extremely important task for everyone and, in particular, for the Prosecutor’s Office. As it was last year, any delay in the payment of wages or other violations of labour legislation should be dealt with harshly by the prosecutors in question.
In addition, we need to put more emphasis on the observance of laws concerning social protection for minors, veterans and disabled persons, as well as providing medicines for our citizens and enforcing laws pertaining to housing. Now the most urgent and pressing topic is the fulfilment of the law on providing accommodation for veterans of the Great Patriotic War.
Third, serious attention should be paid to economic crimes. In the past year – I said I was not going to give specific figures but this one is particularly impressive – there were more than 1,220,000 violations of laws relating to the economy.
The Prosecutor's Office has considerable experience in this area. Working with the Accounts Chamber, other federal agencies need to effectively audit the proper use of public funds earmarked to support the real sector of the economy. The money we allocate for this is considerable: last year the amounts were substantial and this year the anti-crisis measures are ongoing. We must continue to monitor this spending. There will always be citizens willing to snuffle up to this trough.
We need to work harder to ensure the freedom of entrepreneurship and to protect the rights of economic entities. We must strictly enforce the schedule of audits set out in the annual consolidated plan.
It is unacceptable when, in pursuit of selfish goals, the regions literally shut off the air supply to entrepreneurship. Unfortunately this happens all the time. In such cases the response of the prosecutor's offices should be tough and swift. We need to continue our work to prevent unscheduled inspections of medium and small businesses. I discussed this with the Prosecutor General quite recently.
Enforcement of legislation protecting the rights of entrepreneurs who are subject to state and municipal supervision is only starting to take effect, but initial results indicate the timeliness and usefulness of the measures taken to reduce the administrative control over the activities of entrepreneurs. In any case, according to expert estimates, the number of inspections required of entrepreneurs by the federal authorities has been reduced by a significant factor.
Such legislation must not be allowed to affect the quality of the inspections that do occur. Supervisory measures are still needed – we cannot allow ourselves to go to the opposite extreme. We cannot weaken monitoring of companies providing social, educational or health services, or those involved in mass activities.
Last year’s events in Perm [fire in a nightclub, Ed.] were a very serious tragedy and a very harsh lesson in this regard. We need to make this kind of control really effective. We know now that this infamous location has been inspected several times by various agencies, but these inspections meant nothing and people died as a result.
Fourth, one of your most important priorities is the fight against corruption. You need to continue to verify the legitimate use of state property and the placement of state orders, and to supervise the observance of laws by agencies carrying out investigative activities and the preliminary investigation of criminal cases involving corruption crimes.
It is important to continue assessing legislative acts, a practice that we recently introduced, insofar as exposure to corrupt practices is concerned. Its effectiveness is obvious. Last year, this sort of investigation identified almost 36,000 regulations and their drafts, of which nearly 30,000 were in contravention of departmental instructions and directly contrary to federal laws. So this work by prosecutors is very timely and relevant.
Soon under my chairmanship there will be a meeting of the Presidential Council for Countering Corruption to consider a national strategy in this field. This strategy should include the main strands of national policy that already exist in this area, and the new measures included in the National Anti-Corruption Plan for 2010–2011. These documents are currently being worked out, and after discussion at the Council, I intend to issue an executive order approving them.
Finally, we should make greater use of the Prosecutor’s Office’s authority to coordinate the work of law enforcement agencies in combating extremism. For example, the use of the right to close down public organisations engaged in illegal activities. This prerogative has a great preventive value and can work to forestall many possible crimes.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that the Prosecutor's Office, along with other law enforcement agencies, must become more sophisticated, be more responsive to the needs of our today’s life, and help with the challenges we currently face and with our plans to modernise our national economy — so this is a strategic area for us.
Of course, the Prosecutor’s Office must, as always, uphold the interests of the country and society, protect the rights of citizens and ensure stability and order. I am confident that you will ensure that our Prosecutor's Office does precisely that.