EU criticizes Poroshenko’s Anti-Corruption Court bill, hints at suspending visa-free travel

“The creation of the Anti-Corruption Court is demanded by the European Commission in terms of the monitoring of the mechanism of visa suspension,” EU speaker. Photo: 5.ua 

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The European Union officially criticized Ukraine’s Presidential Administration over submitted the bill on the High Anti-Corruption Court submitted by President Poroshenko. The speaker of the EU voiced its position in a letter on the request of Yevropeiska Pravda.

The EU welcomed the fact of the submission of the bill itself, as Ukraine had repeatedly undertaken obligations to creation an Anti-Corruption Court, and because creating such an institution “would become a vital step in the fight against corruption in the country.”

At the same time, the EU emphasized that the submitted bill does not correspond to Ukraine’s obligations:.

“The substantive provisions of the bill do not correspond to the Venice Commission recommendations. It is important to reconsider these questions and EU sends this signal to Ukrainian authorities.”

The speaker of the EU also stressed that the creation of the Anti-Corruption Court according to the obligations undertaken by Ukraine is necessary for implementing Ukraine’s visa-free travel requirements with the EU:

“Its creation is demanded by the European Commission in terms of the monitoring of the mechanism of visa suspension.”

Nevertheless, the EU stated that it coordinates its forces with the US and IMF in this regard and that it is ready to continue cooperation with the corresponding Ukrainian authorities to support the process.

Prior to the EU, other international partners of Ukraine expressed their discontent with the bill submitted by Poroshenko.

Satu Kahkonen, the World Bank director responsible for the Ukrainian direction, sent a letter to the Ukrainian Parliament and President’s Administration in which she warned about the inadmissability of adopting President Poroshenko’s version of the law on the High Anti-Corruption Court.

Also, the International Monetary Fund has officially informed the Ukrainian authorities that the adoption of the presidential draft Law on the Anti-Corruption Court in its current version will mean Kyiv’s violation of its obligations to its international partners.

And representatives of the civil society of Ukraine were the first who raised an alarm regarding the bill describing the president’s version of creation of the court. Notably, the text of the bill was presented a little over a week before the New Year, when public attention is drawn mostly to celebrations.

Here are the main points of the bill which were criticized by anti-corruption activists and organizations:

  • Foreign experts will be have only an advisory function. The Venice Commission, in line with society’s request to involve international experts in the anti-Corruption Court, recommended they be given a key role. However, the draft bill will limit their role to an advisory one. As the experts’ role is envisioned to be monitoring the professional integrity of the anti-corruption judges of the Court, this may endanger its effectiveness.
  • There are discriminatory demands regarding international participants who can appoint consultative experts for the selection of judges. According to the bill, only international organizations with which Ukraine cooperates in the area of fight against corruption can appoint experts. International agencies which provide technical support and finance anti-corruption reforms do not have such a right.
  • The high demands to the candidates for the positions of judges. He or she should be a citizen of Ukraine, not younger than 35 years old, with a work experience as a judge not less than 5 years, with a scientific degree in law or at least 7 years experience in the scientific field. It would be extremely hard to find the candidates who fit the criteria.
  • There is a danger of an overload. The Court was tasked to deal not only with cases pf the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, but also those investigated by the National Police and and the State Investigative Bureau. According the Venice Commission it should have been only the cases of the jurisdiction of the NABU and SAP. If the current bill is adopted, there is a danger that the newly created court will be overloaded and will not be able to efficiently fight corruption.
  • The bill makes the Anti-Corruption Court dependent on decisions of other bodies. The High Qualification Commission of Judges has the ultimate right to define whether a candidate has enough experience. The bill also does not list the amount of judges of the Anti-Corruption Court and gives this decision to the State Judicial Administration. So by it the bill makes the Court dependent on this state body.

The Anti-Corruption Court’s is the missing link in the chain of investigative anti-corruption institutions. Up to now, the chain has been represented by the National Anti Corruption Bureau (NABU), an investigative institution, and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office which develops procedural guidelines. But to actually bring the culprits to justice, a court decision is required. Up till now, only one court had processed the anti-corruption cases: the Kyiv Solomianskyi District Court, as it is located in the same city district as NABU. Predictably, the court does not manage to deal with the load.

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