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Experts: Prosecution has been reformed at the legislative level, but we have to wait for qualitative changes

Kyiv, March 20, 2017.

Since the reform of the prosecution, it has been “spinning” around the process and public prosecution in court and is no longer a supervisory authority. However, changes occurred mainly in the field of legislation, they have not touched the agency’s culture or its personnel quality. This opinion was expressed by experts during a discussion held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. They talked about the values and outlook that prevail in the institution, what the people who work there consider normal behavior. “The prosecution is the child of Ukrainian legal system; it has not arrived from another planet. Persons who may become prosecutors know that their parents had to pay a bribe for them to enter a law university. The prosecution is also a part and consequence of Sovietism. This is a kind of feudalism: until recently, no one was allowed to ride in the elevator with the Prosecutor General. There is still a big difference in the hierarchy and levels of wages,” said Bogdan Vitvitskyi, special advisor to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, former US federal prosecutor.

The basic structure cannot undergo qualitative changes within eighteen months. Neither is it possible to quickly change the culture in a large system. Qualitative changes have begun, but they will take a long time to complete. “We expect the prosecution to be effective, perform its functions, transfer cases to court, and provide quality prosecution support in court. But what do we have? There are the same people. Over the last 10 years, the main selection criterion has been “loyalty to the leadership”. The criteria have changed only over the last two years,” noted Valentyna Telychenko, chairman of the working group on reform of the prosecution (Public Council on reform issues) of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. Amendments to the Constitution provide that the prosecution system should act as a state’s advocate, represent and protect the rights of victims in court. But now there is neither awareness of this new role nor the willingness to come to the negotiating table and talk about the new functions that it has to perform in line with the reform. “According to the value system, the prosecutor’s office is intended to “find and accuse a person.” Now its task is to show statistics of criminal proceedings and criminal sentences including complete discrepancies between them. Now the level of representation of the state’s interests is very low. Prosecutors are unable to argue the case to the court and ground evidence,” emphasized Olena Sotnyk, MP of Ukraine (faction “Union “Samopomich”), member of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Committee on European integration.

The obstacles to reforms also include more global issues. In particular, the lack of understanding of the prosecutor’s office mission. “It should be aimed at ensuring inevitability of punishment and the right to a fair trial. The main problem of the law enforcement system reform is that there should be a single system and a single concept of reforming,” noted Natalia Driomina-Volok, doctor of law, professor and head of the department of civil, commercial law and litigation of the Academy of Advocacy of Ukraine. “The prosecution reform should concern the process rather than prosecutor’s office itself. The process is an area where discussion and struggle for powers and opportunities will take place,” believes Anton Liovin, PhD, senior legal analyst of Democracy Reporting International in Ukraine.

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