Country Listing

Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


Lacking a common-law tradition, Soviet law did not provide for an adversary system in which the plaintiff and the defendant argued before a neutral judge. Court proceedings included a judge, two people's assessors, a procurator, and a defense attorney and provided for free participation by the judge in the trial. The same courts heard both civil and criminal cases. Although most cases were open to the public, closed hearings were legal if the government deemed it necessary. Judges kept legal technicalities to a minimum because the court's stated purpose was to find the truth of a case rather than to protect legal rights.

Other aspects of Soviet law more closely resembled the AngloSaxon system. In theory, all citizens were equal before the law. Defendants could appeal convictions to higher courts if they believed the sentence was too harsh. Yet, the procurator could also appeal if the sentence was considered too lenient. The law also guaranteed defendants legal representation and the right to trial in their native language or to the use of an interpreter.

Data as of May 1989