The 11th St. Petersburg International Legal Forum (SPILF), one of the key events in matters concerning jurisprudence, has concluded in Russia’s northern capital. Representatives of the Russian and foreign legal community, business, and government as well as prominent public and government figures discussed the role and place of law in the modern world.
The SPILF has become a key legal platform for discussing the changes that have occurred in Russia, the economy, and business. The Forum provided an opportunity to analyse legal measures that aim to protect Russia’s national interests in unfriendly jurisdictions, hold meetings with colleagues from friendly states, and develop new ways to counter sanctions.
As Russian Minister of Justice Konstantin Chuychenko noted, almost all the sessions touched upon the Forum’s main theme on building sovereign law and a multipolar world. “Representatives of the legal community spoke about the development of universal protective mechanisms that would preserve the impartiality of international justice and the sovereignty of states,” he said.
The main theme of the Forum’s plenary session was ‘Sovereignty in Law’. The leitmotif of the discussion was the protection of Russia’s national interests and national law.
Chuychenko read out greetings from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the participants, organizers, and guests of the SPILF. In his address, Putin said: “Russia has consistently advocated for building a mutually beneficial partnership in the political sphere and matters concerning security, the economy, science, culture, and sports. We firmly believe that the rule of law and respect for the sovereignty of states are precisely what creates a solid foundation for the fairer and more democratic multipolar world order that is taking shape.”
Per tradition, Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev spoke at the plenary session. He noted that “the main global platforms, such as the International Criminal Court, the European Court of Human Rights, and even the International Court of Justice, have lost their appeal and are not recognized by countries as fair and useful.”
The plenary session was attended by representatives of the legal system of six countries: the ministers of justice of Indonesia, Egypt, and Iran, as well as representatives of the Supreme Court of India, the Legislative Chamber of Uzbekistan, and the president of Serbia’s Centre for the Restoration of International Law.
Over the course of numerous discussions, speakers and experts exchanged experience and opinions on issues concerning modern law and addressed a wide range of issues – from sanctions and doing business under restrictions to the regulation of artificial intelligence.
Advisor to the Russian President and Executive Secretary of the SPILF Organizing Committee Anton Kobyakov noted: “More than 3,800 participants from 54 countries and territories, including Russia, came together behind the idea of searching for legal regulation of the geopolitical crisis. Most participants agreed that the way to implement this idea is to preserve the sovereignty that underlies any statehood. In the current unstable situation, only sovereign law can stabilize the world. Respect for the sovereignty of each country and non-interference in its world order is the key to success.”
More than 150 events of the business programme were held over four days, including 22 sessions as part of the International Youth Legal Forum.
The SPILF also included the International Conference of the Russian Constitutional Court, an open meeting of ministers of justice, and lectures by Russian Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin, Valdai Discussion Club expert Andrei Bezrukov, and Federal Archival Agency Director Andrei Artizov.
More than 500 speakers took part in the sessions of the main programme, including 300 people in person, over 80 experts in videoconferencing format, and more than 130 specialists in the youth sessions. Speakers at the SPILF 2023 included leading Russian lawyers who spoke about various areas of law, politicians and leaders of Russian and international organizations, and business representatives.
Legal experts stated that the SPILF 2023 showed that Russia is open to an international dialogue.
An important international event at the Forum was the open meeting of the ministers of justice, which was titled ‘International Cooperation among Ministries of Justice: New Formats and Horizons’. The ministers shared best practices in various areas of their ministries’ activities, in particular, digital transformation, legislative work, interaction with the non-profit sector, the humanization of criminal legislation, improvements to the penitentiary system, and enhancing the standards of activities of representatives of bar associations.
Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov addressed the Forum participants with a video message. He said that “Western countries are cynically trying to accuse Russia of violating international law, although they themselves have trampled on this right.” Lavrov noted that “the special military operation is being conducted on the basis of Article 51 of the UN Charter, which envisages the right to individual and collective self-defence and the UN Security Council was promptly informed about this.”
Experts who attended the Forum also discussed issues related to the EU’s restrictions on the ability to provide legal services to Russian companies. The experts recommended that Russian businesses turn their attention to Russian arbitration centres (at which the number of international disputes increased by 20% in 2022) and Asian arbitration centres, especially in friendly jurisdictions (e.g., the Hong Kong, Istanbul, and Dubai arbitration centres).
The Forum brought together representatives of the legislative, executive, and judicial authorities, legal science, higher education institutions, bar associations, legal consulting agencies, legal departments, public organizations of lawyers, major companies, and the media.
The number of foreign delegations increased significantly compared with last year. The SPILF 2023 was attended by the heads of supreme authorities from 36 foreign countries.
Twenty ministers of justice from the following countries took part in the Forum: Egypt, Iran, China (videoconferencing), Myanmar, the United Arab Emirates, Abkhazia, Angola, Armenia, Belarus, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mali, Namibia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Chad, South Ossetia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the Central African Republic.
The heads of higher judicial instances from 10 foreign countries, five heads of international organizations and associations, as well as six heads of diplomatic corps took part in the Forum.
The Forum was attended by 28 representatives of the federal and regional executive and legislative authorities of Russia.
Guests of the Forum included roughly 200 representatives of the scientific community, law schools, associations, and international and Russian organizations. The participants included over 650 representatives of Russian and foreign business from more than 350 companies.
During the SPILF, 15 agreements, treaties, and memorandums were signed:
A memorandum of cooperation between the Russian Ministry of Justice and the Chadian Ministry of Justice and Human Rights
A programme of cooperation between the Russian Ministry of Justice and the Angolan Ministry of Justice and Human Rights for 2023–2024
A memorandum of cooperation between the Russian Ministry of Justice and the Myanmar Ministry of Legal Affairs
A memorandum of understanding between the Russian Ministry of Justice and the Central African Republic’s Ministry of Justice on the protection of human rights and good governance
A memorandum of understanding between the Russian Ministry of Justice and the Indonesian Ministry of Justice and Human Rights on legal cooperation. The first step in implementing its provisions may be the programme of cooperation between the justice authorities of Indonesia and Russia for 2023–2024
Three agreements on cooperation between the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service and the governments of St. Petersburg and the Novgorod and Leningrad Regions
A cooperation agreement between the National Research University Higher School of Economics and Lenfilm Film Studio
Three agreements between the Association of Lawyers of Russia and the Russian Investigative Committee, the Moscow Academy of the Russian Investigative Committee, and S8 Capital
An agreement between the Russian diversified holding S8 Capital and Kutafin Moscow State Law University
An agreement on the accession of Russian higher education institutions and scientific institutions that provide educational activities to the consortium Russian-African Network University
A memorandum of mutual cooperation between the Centre for the Advanced Training of Lawyers of the Uzbek Ministry of Justice and the All-Russian State University of Justice (Russian Legal Academy of the Russian Ministry of Justice)
On the opening day of the Forum, law students, young lawyers, teachers and mentors, and representatives of all levels of the authorities, the scientific community, and business from Russia and foreign countries met at the International Youth Legal Forum to discuss the prospects of their profession in the difficult geopolitical situation. The plenary session ‘Traditional Values in Law’ was attended by Russian Minister of Justice Konstantin Chuychenko, Russian Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin, and All-Russian State University of Justice (Russian Legal Academy of the Russian Ministry of Justice) Rector Olga Aleksandrova. The session was moderated by Dean of the Faculty of Law and Chair of the Department of Constitutional Law at St. Petersburg State University Sergei Belov.
The speakers underscored the importance of creating effective legal mechanisms to protect traditional values, strengthening the institution of the family, as well as creating conditions for the upbringing and development of children based on Russian spiritual and moral guidelines and principles.
During the Youth Forum, Chuychenko presented a medal ‘For Excellence in Studies’ to the best students of law faculties. The new departmental award of the Russian Ministry of Justice was presented to 23 students.
The SPILF venue also showcased the stands of official agencies (Ministry of Justice, Federal Penitentiary Service, and the Federal Bailiffs Service, among others) and organizations.
The stands presented developments and technologies in matters concerning law, including software developments for law firms and organizations, tools for information analysis, and other innovative solutions.
A rather creative approach was taken to the design of the stands this year. For example, the stand of the Russian Ministry of Justice recreated the workplace of a 3rd class official from the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Empire in the late 19th century.
The stand ‘Forensic Expertise of the Russian Ministry of Justice’ demonstrated the expert capabilities of the ministry’s forensic institutions. Participants and guests viewed the current types of forensic examinations, and also had an opportunity to take part in the experiments: ‘Identify a Diamond’, ‘What Gold Is Gold’, and ‘Verify Your Diamond’.
An exhibition stand dedicated to the activities of civil registry offices provided the Forum participants with an opportunity to learn about the digital capabilities of civil registry offices, in particular, video materials about the operations of the Unified State Register of Civil Status Records. For the first time, an official marriage registration ceremony was held at the registry office’s thematic platform.
At the joint information stand of the Grain Quality Assessment Centre and the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision, employees from the organizations told visitors about digital solutions that they have introduced in their work. In addition, an interactive stand let people visit the testing laboratory of the Grain Quality Assessment Centre in a virtual reality format.
At the stand of the Federal Penitentiary Service, guests were shown a model of the new Kresty pre-trial detention centre in St. Petersburg with detailed features of the facility: total area of 35 hectares and an estimated 4,000 people under investigation.
SPORTS PROGRAMMEMore than 400 people took part in tournaments for the Roscongress Foundation Cup as well as master classes in chess, checkers and Go, which were held at the Mind Sports Lounge at the SPILF 2023 venue. Alexei Lugovoy, a two-time winner of Russian team chess championships, held a simultaneous game session. Andrei Napreyenkov, the champion of Europe among checkers veterans and the author of 23 books about checkers, taught lessons about the combinational game of checkers. First Deputy Director of the Main Department of Justice of the Chelyabinsk Region Vyacheslav Zaytsev won the chess tournament. Salnikova & Partners Bar Association Managing Partner Natalya Salnikova won the Go tournament.
The programme was organized by RC Sport, the sports platform of the Roscongress Foundation, with the support of the St. Petersburg Sports Chess Federation and the Zvezda Go-Centre.
Per tradition, the St. Petersburg Seasons Cultural Festival was held during the Forum. SPILF guests and participants were able to visit the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve, the State Museum of the History of Religion, the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, and the Russian Museum of Ethnography. In addition, concerts at the Stroganov Palace of the Russian Museum and the Shostakovich St. Petersburg Academic Philharmonia complemented museum, theatre, and exhibition components of the festival. The crowning jewel of the cultural programme was an evening reception on the first day of the forum, which was held in the format of an art cocktail with opera stars from the Mariinsky Theatre.
The Forum was held with the support of: strategic partner – Rosseti; official partners – MegaFon and the Tashir Group; partner – Russian Railways; business programme partners – Aeroflot and the Association of Lawyers of Russia; general information partners – TASS news agency, RIA Novosti, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Kommersant Publishing House, Pravo.ru, the Russian Agency of Legal and Judicial Information, LEGAL.REPORT, and Russian Justice Magazine; information partners – Izvestia, Business FM radio station, Interfax news agency, Vedomosti newspaper, Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, Business News Agency, St. Petersburg television channel, Economy and Life, Advokatskaya Gazeta, Competition and Law magazine, Nalogoved magazine, PravoTEK, Judge magazine, The Paragraph Magazine, Legal Information Agency, and Legal Insight magazine.