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RFE/RL Translations
December 19, 2016

The Empire of the Presumption of Guilt: How cases are fabricated against the innocent

by
Henry Jackson Society

Russian courts of general jurisdiction acquit in fewer than 1% of cases. In Europe the average figure is around 10%. This does not indicate that the Russian law enforcement system is operating more efficiently than that of the West, just that innocent people are being incarcerated in Russia.

This is no secret, even to Yury Chaika, prosecutor general of the Russian Federation who, two years ago, admitted that “people have been illegally imprisoned for years.” The statistics suggest that little has changed since then. Data recently released by the judicial department of the Russian Supreme Court shows that, in 2014, 746,270 guilty verdicts and a total of 13 acquittals were issued by judges. Acquittals are significantly more common in trials by jury, at 15 – 20 per cent of cases considered. Comparing these figures, lawyer Henry Reznik believes we can estimate the number of people wrongfully convicted. “In other words,” he said, “the standard of proof in courts with only legal professionals is low in Russia, and judges are satisfied with evidence that juries would find less than compelling. This suggests that, in the absence of a jury, an accused’s chances of acquittal, if he does not plead guilty and persists in protesting his innocence, are practically nil.”

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