[JURIST] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive] expressed the need for Russia to improve its legal system and make a better commitment to the rule of law, during a speech [text] at a legal forum in St. Petersburg. Medvedev is trying to separate himself [Reuters report] from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website] who is running against him in the March 2012 presidential election. Medvedev said that during his time in office he has tried to root out the corruption that has plagued Russian politics. But he said that in order for real legal reform there must be a strong judicial system. He said:
Even the best possible laws on paper can prove ineffective in practice and remain no more than declarations if we do not have courts that work, or if we have excessive or overly lax administrative procedures. Sadly, we know this all too well from our own experience. Problems with enforcing laws, lack of respect for the courts, and corruption are not just issues affecting our public life, but are macroeconomic factors holding back our national wealth growth and putting a brake on our efforts to carry out economic decisions and social initiatives. The quality and competitiveness of legal institutions therefore play a vital part for assuring all countries' future, the Russian Federation's too.Russia media and banking tycoon Alexander Lebedev on Thursday threw his support [BBC report] behind Putin joining Putin's an anti-corruption coalition.
In December 2008, Medvedev's first year in office, he proposed that Russian courts become more transparent in order to restore faith in the justice system and prevent people from turning to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website]. Speaking at the seventh All-Russian Congress of Judges, Medvedev said that the ECHR cannot and should not replace Russian courts. Russia is the source of more applications to the ECHR than any other country. Medvedev proposed measures to improve the quality of judges and provide broader access to court documents. He encouraged the congress to discuss his concerns and make concrete proposals. In June 2008, Medvedev said he was committed to improving Russia's human rights record and enforcing the rule of law, reiterating pledges he made at his May inauguration [JURIST reports]. Medvedev, himself a lawyer by training, promised top legal officials he would tackle corruption and intimidation in the Russian judicial system [JURIST report], calling for reforms to better train and support judges.