Russian judges routinely subjected to terror threats

Russian judges are having “tremendous problems” gaining recognition as independent and respected members of the community, and are routinely subjected to threats and terrorism, according to a US judge.

Judge Suzanne Conlon, who recently returned from an American Bar Association workshop on organised crime for judges in Siberia, said the rule of law must be established if democratic institutions and free markets are to survive in Eastern Europe.

She said that her recent visit to Siberia made her pessimistic. Conlon said that the history of judges under communism “led to situations which are ideal for organised crime”.

“Judges told me that two of their colleagues were murdered in the past year and a court-house was bombed at night. The purpose was to destroy evidence,” she said.

Because the traditional role of the courts in Russia was oppressive, there is a lack of respect for the system, Conlon said.

Judges are generally very young and earn only $200 a month. “Payment is low and so judges are ripe for bribery,” Conlon said.