Speech at an Expanded Session of the College of the Russian Federation Prosecutor General’s Office 2004-01-30 19:48:45 Prosecutor General’s Office, Moscow President Vladimir Putin: Good day, dear colleagues, I am sure that during today’s session you will bring up the priority areas in your work and will raise various different issues, so I’ll leave aside any long introduction and just get straight to the heart of the questions that I am certain you will raise and discuss today. First is the new criminal and criminal-procedural legislation and how it affects the prosecutors’ work. Now that this new legislation is in force all the provisions of the Constitution relating to people’s rights and freedoms in criminal legal proceedings have finally taken effect. Courts now do not have the right to carry out an accusatory function and it is obligatory for prosecutors to take part in court proceedings. This has changed the Prosecutor’s Office’s procedural status. The prosecutor, acting on behalf of the state, now bears responsibility for proving and justifying the charges made. This demands a qualitatively new level of work by prosecutors and increases their volume of work. After all, in their role as public prosecutor, prosecutors protect the interests of the thousands of people who are victims of crime. This is why the decision was made last year to considerably increase the number of people working in the Prosecutor’s Office. You now have the responsible task of making the public prosecutors’ work more effective and raising the prestige of your profession. The archaic institution of additional investigations was abolished. I know that there was much debate over this decision and I imagine this debate is still going on today. What we did in this area is to make court proceedings more controversial in form and place higher demands on the prosecutors’ supervision and the quality of investigations. The Prosecutor’s Office’s supervision of investigations and inquiries is a key element in outside control over the law enforcement agencies’ activities. It is essential in ensuring the quality of preliminary investigations. This is crucial because it is unacceptable to have situations where investigations have lasted months and people have been kept in custody and then the accusations simply fall apart in court. This does not mean that you should defend the honour of your profession at any cost and let people languish behind bars. What it means is that investigations need to be of a higher quality. One of the priorities in your work is still to coordinate the different law enforcement agencies’ activities in fighting crime. The law on the Prosecutor’s Office makes this clear and it is a very necessary task. The main thing here is to properly harmonise the work of the different agencies and ensure uniform application of the laws by all the agencies responsible for investigations and inquiries. We have said in the past just how essential it is that the Prosecutor’s Office give this question its full attention, but so far this coordination work has not brought the results it should. We still see examples of the law enforcement agencies working in isolation from each other or acting and thinking only within the framework of their own agency. Meanwhile, the fight against crime remains a pressing issue and continues to be of great concern for our people. Crime has a destructive effect in all areas of public and state life, from the economy to morals. Russia’s high crime rate also has a negative impact on its international authority. Last year, as you know, almost three million crimes were registered. One in every ten of these crimes was committed by teenagers or involved their participation. More than a third of the crimes registered, including serious and very serious crimes, were not solved. This means that inevitable punishment for crimes committed is still not the case here, and this is an area where the Prosecutor’s Office has an immense amount of work to do. This does not mean that we should fight the statistics. On the contrary, the statistics have to be objective, and so there should be no hysterics over my saying that many crimes have gone unsolved. It is our duty to know the objective truth, and it is also our duty, once we know this truth, to take the appropriate measures in response. I would like to look more closely at the Prosecutor’s Office’s general supervisory function. This work must aim at stopping lawlessness and is largely of a preventive nature. The Prosecutor’s Office has a lot of power in this area, but this power is to be used solely to oversee legality and not for any other purpose. There can be no using it to interfere in anything else, in economic or any other activities. Legality is a general state concept and not a political or agency-based category. Another important area of your work is fighting corruption. Few remember today that one of the main reasons why Peter the Great established the institution of the prosecutor’s office was to prevent corruption. Today, the prosecutors must use all their legal powers in this fight. In this context, it has been proposed that the Prosecutor General will present an annual report to the Council for the Fight against Corruption. Talk and complaints about how we don’t have a separate law specifically dealing with fighting corruption are no excuse for ineffective work in this area. The legislation concerning corruption, especially the criminal legislation, is sufficiently developed and, I would say, is uncompromising. I think the problem lies elsewhere. Laws must be applied in such a way that the results of investigations are professionally justified. The main thing is that charges laid should be able to stand up to controversial court proceedings. Given that the heads of all the law enforcement agencies are here today, I would once again emphasise that in the fight against corruption what we need is systematic and professional work rather than the occasional case that makes a lot of noise. Finally, the most important point – protecting the rights and lawful interests of our citizens. People usually turn to you with their complaints of laws not being observed. Violations of the labour, housing, pension and migrations laws are the main problems here. I know that the Prosecutor’s Office gave satisfaction to hundreds of thousands of such appeals last year. The Prosecutor General and I have spoken many times in the past about this area of the Prosecutor’s Office’s work. The prosecutors carried out a huge amount of work last year. But I would ask you to take more initiative in this respect. There can be no keeping silent when, not through objective reasons but because of officials’ negligence, entire apartment blocks are without water and electricity for weeks on end and people freeze in their homes. Cases like these happen all the time, everyone knows about them, but appropriate supervision of officials’ work is still inadequate. In this respect, I must repeat that the law is above the authority and administrative resource of any official. And the main aim of supervision by the prosecutors is to ensure that laws are enforced. All the more so when we are dealing with peoples’ basic problems and interests. In conclusion, I would like to thank everyone who works for the Prosecutor’s Office for their work last year, for their responsible attitude towards their job and for their achievements in protecting the interests of Russia’s citizens and the state in general. Thank you for your attention.