No actual fight against high-level corruption as long as Anti-Corruption Court is not in place

Kyiv, February 16, 2017.

Representatives of authorities and civil society discussed the missing components that are lacking to ensure the full-fledged start of the anticorruption reform. Challenges on the way as well as assistance from Western partners in selection of judges were also in focus of the discussion.  

Attempts of the actual fight against high-level corruption have been on for over two years in Ukraine. To achieve that, a series of anticorruption agencies has been established including the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, National Agency for Corruption Prevention and Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. However, Ukraine’s anticorruption system does not function properly as the Anti-Corruption Court is still missing. Majority of the cases investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office come to a dead-end in courts. The draft law on establishing of the Anticorruption Court has been registered in the Verkhovna Rada. International experts will advise on selection of judges to the court. This move is expected to guarantee the court’s independent nature. Here are the main points that the representatives of authorities and civil society made during the discussion at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Sabotage on the part of judges

“When established, the Anti-Corruption Court is to become the first actual court in Ukraine. Even most important, cases investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office are simply dying in court. Judges are scared, they sabotage the cases, they take orders not to consider the cases against corrupt high-level officials. That’s why we have drafted a new law – the most important one when it comes to countering corruption. All the cases that the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office investigate have to be considered by the Anti-Corruption Court. Detectives of the court will be in the position to give out permissions to tap into phones, to arrest, to announce sentence as well as to adopt decisions on special confiscation,” said MP Yegor Sobolev. “In sixty eight per cent of proceedings, even preliminary, trials in court cannot be started. Purposefully or not, cases are assigned to courts, where it is known that no three judges are present empowered to consider the cases [the necessary quantity of judges for corruption cases – UCMC]. Formal replies are being sent and the cases are artificially protracted,” added Nazar Kholodnytsky, Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. Such a state of play is characteristic not only of the corruption counteraction area, but is a general problem of the entire judicial system of Ukraine.

Control tools when selecting judges

Anticorruption reform is key for Ukraine. Reform implementation was the key request by international donors, as well as the need for further development of the Ukrainian state. The US, the UK, the EU as well as other international partners, who are providing technical assistance to Ukraine in combatting corruption, will be delegating their representatives to the committees that will be selecting judges. “Just and transparent choice is key. We need to filter the existing system, using expertise of the professionals with international experience and recommendations from international institutions,” explained Andriy Slyusar, head of the program on counteraction of high-level corruption at Transparency International Ukraine. Special commission is dealing with preliminary selection of judges; it will be submitting proposals to the High Qualification Commission of Judges and to the Supreme Council of Justice. One third of the posts in the commission that will be selecting judges will be composed of the people that have received positive evaluation by international partners. They will be also in possession of the veto right. “Those who pay to have our anticorruption efforts going, have to have certain impact on the use of the money. […] In such a way we will have commission members representing the US, the EU and so on. It will be impossible to convince these people to vote for notorious judges,” said Anastasia Krasnosilska, expert of the Anticorruption Action Center. She is also of the opinion that in order to ensure the independent nature of the Anti-Corruption Court “we cannot allow that the judges are selected through the old scheme.”

Western experience

However when the court is established there is still no guarantee that high-level officials are brought to justice. “53,6 per cent of civil servants who were charged with corruption in Ukraine over the last year were representatives of the lowest ranks. In Slovakia, where respective court has been established, only three per cent of the sentenced persons have actually inflicted damage to the state that exceeded five thousand euro. Both in Ukraine and Slovakia high-level political figures manage to avoid liability,” said Oleksandr Yevseyev, expert of the program for reforming of law enforcement and judiciary at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future.


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