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Top international anti-corruption experts call to ensure maximum independence of Ukraine’s anti-corruption agencies

Kyiv, November 30, 2017.

The International Anti-Corruption Advisory Board – a specially established body advising to the parliamentary anti-corruption committee releases its first report with recommendations to the Ukrainian government on how to address the daunting problems of anticorruption process.

International Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (IACAB) calls to ensure maximum independence of anti-corruption agencies and to secure them from groundless attacks as well as to launch the specialized anticorruption court as quickly as possible. It is stipulated in the first IACAB report that provides conclusions and recommendations set to increase the efficiency of Ukraine’s anti-corruption agencies. The report was presented by Carlos Castresana and Drago Kos – members of the International Anti-Corruption Advisory Board at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

The conclusion contains a total of 12 recommendations. Thus, the board calls to ensure independent nature of the National Anticorruption Bureau (NABU): to ensure the NABU’s exceptional jurisdiction in investigating high-level corruption cases to avoid the situation when the work is done without NABU’s participation; to cancel the possibility of dismissing the Head of NABU based on the negative audit result. “We think that the possible removal and also the process of auditing the institution should be transparent and professional,” emphasized Carlos Castresana. The anticorruption board recommends adopting the legislation that would give NABU the right to independently get the information from communication channels without having to address law enforcement or intelligence for that, as well as limiting the possibility of public disclosure of the data at the stage of pre-trial investigation in order not to disrupt the investigation.

Experts call to cancel the amendments to the Criminal Code of Ukraine preventing NABU and the Specialized Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) from investigating high-level corruption cases efficiently. The board also calls to ensure the adequate operational and administrative autonomy of the SAPO from the Office of the Prosecutor’s General as well as to consider the possibility to reconsider the procedure for appointment of the Prosecutor General and his/her terms of reference to ensure justice.

IACAB representatives expressed concern over the efficiency of the actual system. “NABU has been able to propose to SAPO and SAPO to the courts 93 cases. Three-quarters of them are still suspended without explanations. 24 are decided, but seventeen of these decisions are final, from these 15 have been plea agreements, so that the adjudication has been made only in two cases from a total of 23,” Carlos Castresana noted. He also expressed the concern over the fact that the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption had checked only about one hundred of e-declarations of assets.

Experts call to launch the specialized anticorruption court as soon as possible taking into account the recommendations of the Venice Commission of October 9, 2017; to ensure the exclusive jurisdiction of the court and a selection procedure with high requirements for the candidates to the posts of the judges as well as their due payment and protection. “We recommend establishing with the immediate matter of priority of the specialized independent anti-corruption court. It is absolutely indispensable to have the proper response and deterrent effect that everyone expects,” Castresana emphasized.

A special emphasis was made on the need to establish a mechanism that would ensure the balance between the protection of anti-corruption agencies from groundless accusations potentially linked to corruption and the responsibility of these agencies in case of the actual responsibility.

Representatives of the IACAB expressed serious concern over the events around the NABU that happened the day before. “We are afraid that this may have serious consequences for the operational capabilities of NABU. We are deeply concerned that this might mean the start of even more serious attacks against NABU which started to deliver results,” Drago Kos said. “This is something that can in many ways hamper all the efforts that had been made during the last years in the fight against corruption in Ukraine. This is something that has been happening not only in Ukraine but in many countries when investigative or prosecutorial bodies against corruption were successfully bringing cases,” Carlos Castresana noted.

“We will ask for the meeting with the European Commission. We will send out letters to all relevant international organizations asking them to take the last event which can also mean that Ukraine is stepping back from the declared willingness to fight corruption, especially the high-level one, into consideration, when they will be making decisions in their relations with Ukraine. […]We have to have all the three institutions in place – independent, autonomous in doing their job. If things like this will happen again, that can mean the end of NABU and SAPO, and this is something which we think may have grave consequences not only for anti-corruption fight in Ukraine. We are really worried and we hope that was just a mistake and misunderstanding,” Drago Kos emphasized.

The report will be presented to the Parliamentary committee on corruption prevention and counteraction.

To remind, IACAB was established following the request of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament) within the technical assistance program EU Anticorruption Initiative (EUACI). IACAB assists the Parliamentary committee on corruption prevention and counteraction to reinforce the monitoring of anticorruption reforms implementation. IACAB members are top international anticorruption actors including Carlos Castresana, Anca Jurma, Giovanni Kessler, Drago Kos, Martin Kreitner, and Daniel Thelesklaf.

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