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NEWS

Commentary: Overview of the legal framework and current situation on implementation of the COVID-19 measures in the courts of Russia

FairTrialsAdmin - April 30, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, Commentary, Remote Justice, Court closures

This post was written by Olga Startceva, Citizens Watch 

Russian authorities have not declared the state of emergency nor emergency situation. On 25 March 2019, the President of the Russian Federation announced the following week from 30 March to 3 April to be days-off, which later were prolonged until 30 April and again until 11 May. On March 18th, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ordered the courts to limit the presence of the public in the courts. On April 8th, the Supreme Court Federation ordered the cancellation of visitors to courts and recommended that they consider only urgent cases, leaving to the discretion of the courts the urgency of the case, and whether to hold court hearings via the court videoconference system. On April 29th, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation extended the recommendation to held court hearing via videoconferencing.

Participants of court hearings have complained about technical difficulties during  videoconferencing and a lack of proper communication with courts. Lawyers claim that the extensive use of videoconferencing in court hearings is not prescribed by the law. Human Rights’ NGO Citizens’ Watch monitored whether the courts communicate accurate and full information about the changes in their work: the NGO monitored the information available on the web-sites of the courts of Saint-Petersburg and published the results on 29 April 2020. The results of the monitoring showed that:

1. With rare exceptions, information about changes in the operation of the courts in connection with COVID-19 is incomprehensible to a wide audience. Courts quote the Order of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation from 8 April 2020, which does not contain information on the work of specific courts and leaves many questions to the discretion of the chairperson of a court.

2. Although the videoconference’ system has been introduced in Russian courts for 20 years, they have used it on rare occasions: the sections on videoconferencing on the courts' websites are either absent or empty. Recording of translations are not available to the public.

3. Courts do not set up clear rules for visitors. Only three courts published safety rules for visitors advising to bring their own personal protective equipment. Courts recommend sending documents to the court via Russian Post or electronically.

 

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