Prosecutors Wrongly Charge Thousands Yearly, Chaika Says

Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said Tuesday that thousands of people are wrongly charged every year because of poor work by prosecutors and an overreliance on witness testimony rather than hard evidence.

Chaika told a meeting of senior prosecutors that many criminal cases are started "without having enough proof" and that accusations are often based "on mere witness testimony," Interfax reported Tuesday.

"This situation is due to bad work during preliminary investigations," Chaika told a meeting of the Collegium of the Prosecutor General's Office, the news agency said.

The result is a growing number of lawsuits from plaintiffs demanding that their names be cleared or that law enforcement agencies give them financial compensation. The number of such lawsuits grew to 538 last year from 419 in 2006, Chaika said.

He pointed out that mistakes made by law enforcement agencies are becoming rather expensive for the country.

So far this year, the European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to pay 4.3 million euros ($6.7 million) to Russian citizens who filed complaints to the Strasbourg court for violations of human rights back home, Chaika said.

In addition, Russia had to pay 94 million rubles ($4 million) last year to citizens who filed lawsuits in domestic courts, Chaika said.

He urged his subordinates to take measures to ensure that the rights and freedoms of the citizens were respected.

Chaika's call came a week after President Dmitry Medvedev ordered new measures to root out corruption in the judicial system and issued several calls to crack down on the country's "legal nihilism." One of the major requirements, Medvedev said, was to protect judges from outside pressure or bribery aimed at influencing their decisions.

Medvedev also said that Russia needed to cut the amount of red tape in court procedures.