Anatomy of Injustice: A Federal System To Investigate, Prosecute

Anatomy of Injustice: The Unsolved Killings of Journalists in Russia


A centralized federal system, overseen in Moscow with regional offices throughout the country, investigates and prosecutes most serious crimes in Russia, including murders.

A system of Investigative Committees is in charge of most criminal probes. The Russian Investigative Committee in Moscow, headed by Aleksandr Bastrykin, oversees seven federal districts, each of which has an affiliated office. The districts, in turn, are divided into as many as 17 regions. (Certain crimes, such as narcotics or national security offenses, are handled by other agencies.)

The Russian Prosecutor General’s office, headed by Yuri Chaika, is in charge of litigating cases. It is arranged in the same hierarchical fashion: seven districts that are, in turn, divided into a number of regions.

The Investigative Committee system is two years old. Before the committee’s establishment, the Prosecutor General and its subordinate offices were in charge of both criminal investigations and prosecutions. Under that system, inherited from the Soviet Union, prosecutors opened an inquiry, conducted an investigation, and brought the charges in a courtroom.

The administration of President Vladimir Putin established the Investigative Committee system to promote greater checks and balances. The Investigative Committee is semiautonomous. The committee has its own budget and code of conduct, but it is part of the Prosecutor General’s Office and Bastrykin reports to Chaika.

In principle, investigators are responsible for opening a criminal probe and then presenting their findings to prosecutors for review. Prosecutors decide whether to lodge charges and bring a case to court; return the case to investigators for further work; or refer a very serious matter to a superior prosecutor.

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