JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Resilient Legal Powerhouse: The Procuracy Enters the 21st Century” – Kennan Institute/ William E. Pomeranz
“On March 18, 2019, President Vladimir Putin signed into law two new restrictions on freedom of speech. One law levied administrative fines on so-called ‘fake news’ while the other imposed penalties for information deemed insulting to human dignity, public morality, or otherwise expressing disrespect to state symbols and institutions. The above laws lacked precise standards, thereby requiring interpretation. What was particularly revealing, however, was that the law on fake news empowered the prokuratura (procuracy), and not the courts, to make the initial ruling to block any offending materials.
Such recognition underscores the procuracy’s incremental yet steady resurgence in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse. Since 1991, it has moved into new areas of regulation such as business, anti-corruption, NGOs, and the internet, while remaining true to its historical mission of defending the state. Western prosecutors serve as the obvious source of comparison for the prokuratura, but in reality, the procuracy’s jurisdiction and powers far exceed the responsibilities of prosecutors in other common law and civil law countries, respectively. Here I analyze the procuracy’s post-Soviet transition, highlighting how its pro-statist agenda and institutional coherence have led to its reemergence as the most influential legal institution in Russia ….”