Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) passed the bill which launches the creation of the Anti-Corruption Court. The law regulating the process itself has been passed on June 7 and later signed by the President Petro Poroshenko. But a second law to actually launch the process was passed only on 21 June.
265 MPs voted for the bill out of the needed 226. The law comes into force the next day after publication.
Meanwhile, discussions over the first law which regulates the process are not over. The provisions of the law have been negotiated since President Poroshenko presented it at the end of 2017. The crucial point of the negotiations was the role of the Council of international experts to veto candidates which do not fit to the criteria of integrity and professional ethics.
This provision has been discussed with Ukraine’s international partners, in particular, the IMF which made the creation of the independent Anti-Corruption Court as one of the conditions for allocating its tranche for Ukraine. The others concern raising domestic gas prices to market levels and reducing the state budget deficit to 2.5% of gross domestic product.
In general, Ukrainian international partners welcomed the bill. However, after its text was published, a dangerous amendment was revealed, encouraging the West to return to negotiations.
“The law foresees that the Anti-Corruption Court will not consider appeals on the decisions of old the unreformed courts in cases submitted by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau prior to the creation of the Anti-Corruption Court,” Anastasiya Krasnosilska, advocacy manager of ANTAC, explained to Euromaidan Press.
That means that if the unreformed general courts pardon corruptionists who had been already investigated by NABU, the newly-created Anti-Corruption Court will be powerless to consider an appeal.
This is an important detail, considering that the main motivation for creating a separate Anti-Corruption Court for considering high-profile corruption cases was the slim chance that justice would be served in the unreformed old courts. Now all the crimes which the NABU had unearthed could remain unpunished.
Kranosilska says that even the first edition of the president’s bill and the first decision of the Parliament’s committee had a better norm on the appeals.
“The Parliament didn’t vote for it. The head of the law committee of the Parliament Ruslan Kniazevych, the speaker Andriy Parubiy and Poroshenko himself signed the falsified text.”
The Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy and Justice, in its turn, denies the allegations. It says that the amendment regarding the appeal corresponds to the Venice Commission recommendations and was publicly read on the Parliament’s meeting.
Lately, the IMF intervened in the discussion. In particular, its head Christine Lagarde stated that the provision has to be fixed:
“[The IMF agreed that it’s important for the Ukrainian Parliament to adopt] the necessary amendments to restore the requirement that the HACC (anti-corruption court) will adjudicate all cases under its jurisdiction,” she said in a statement.
She clarified that it has to be taken from the law which passed the first reading.
The US state department also released its statement:
“We welcome the International Monetary Fund Managing Director’s statement. She and President Poroshenko have agreed the Rada should quickly amend the law so the proposed court will be able to hear all cases under its jurisdiction, including existing corruption cases, and pass supplementary legislation to formally establish the court. These steps will ensure the court is able to help roll back the corruption that threatens Ukraine’s national security, prosperity, and democratic development.”
“There should be amendments to the criminal procedure code. It can be issued by the President in any moment and initiated by any MP. It is enough to take the adequate definition on the appeal from the previous decision of the committee and put it to the criminal procedure code. If the president is sincere in his desire to make the Anti-Corruption Court working, we will see this initiative very fast.”
The Anti-Corruption Court will complete the chain of newly-created anti-corruption bodies battling top-corruption – the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) and Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO).