Kiev legislatively simplifies possibility of prosecuting and punishing undesirables – Daria Morozova

Comments and statements of the Ombudsman News

For more than a year, Ukraine has avoided fulfilling its obligations on the procedural “cleansing” of persons transferred to the DPR during the exchanges in 2019 and 2020. At the same time, each time it comes up with new excuses that do not stand up to criticism.

Thus, at the moment, the representatives of Kiev in the Minsk Humanitarian Group are trying to explain the “hitch” in the procedural “cleansing” by the expectation of amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine regarding the improvement of provisions for the implementation of a special pre-trial investigation. The corresponding bill is under consideration in the Verkhovna Rada.

According to the Kiev negotiators, with the adoption of these amendments in Ukraine, it will be possible to pass sentences without the presence of the accused party. This, in turn, will open up the possibility of applying pardon procedures to such convicted persons. And it will literally “untie the hands” of Kiev – it will allow carrying out the necessary procedural actions in relation to already actually released citizens, and will also determine the mechanism for the procedural “cleansing” of the participants in future exchanges.

However, the true goals of the proposed changes have nothing to do with solving the problem of stopping the persecution of participants in the events in Donbass.

First, the law is not retroactive. This means that the amendments to the current Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine, envisaged by this draft law, will not apply to legal relations that arose before their adoption. That is, the new legal norms will apply only to legal relations that have arisen after their entry into force, and will not affect participants of the exchanges in 2019-2020. Accordingly, the conviction procedure will continue to be inapplicable to them.

Secondly, acts of pardon are signed by the President of Ukraine personally. The terms of signing are not regulated. And, as practice shows, they can take years.

Thirdly, the “hands” of the Kiev authorities, if the announced adjustments are adopted, will indeed be “untied”. But this is not about freedom of action to fulfil humanitarian obligations. The draft law is intended to simplify the criminal prosecution of citizens.

The initiators themselves in the explanatory note to the document do not hide that it was developed to ensure the inevitability of punishment for persons who have committed a criminal offense, regardless of their location. Thus, nowadays, Interpol refuses Ukrainian law enforcement agencies to satisfy requests to put citizens on the international wanted list if there are signs of political persecution. As a result, the courts of Ukraine cannot satisfy requests for an investigation or criminal proceedings in absentia against such persons.

If the proposed amendments to the CPC are adopted, the procedure will automatically adapt to modern Ukrainian realities. It will be enough only to put the suspect on the domestic wanted list for cases are heard in absentia.

It is interesting that absolutely any information can serve as the basis for putting on the wanted list, including the lack of data on the whereabouts of the suspect or the alleged possibility of his/her location in another country.

The bill assumes that the absence of the suspect will not become an obstacle to choosing an open-ended preventive measure against him/her in the form of detention. The possibility of its change is not provided. In the future, conviction in absentia and a verdict in absentia are coming.

In fact, in this way, Kiev legislatively simplifies the possibility of prosecuting and punishing undesirables, minimizing their chances of finding shelter in another territory from illegal charges. I would like to note that Ukraine has signed extradition agreements with a number of countries, including Austria, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Poland and others. These states will be obliged to extradite to Ukraine the persons in respect of whom a decision on criminal conviction has been made, even if in absentia. Taking into account that no one is immune from Ukrainian “justice”, the consequences of such legislative initiatives can be catastrophic.

It is especially cynical that such criminal innovations are being presented to the public in the context of the Minsk process. In fact, all that Kiev has to do under the Minsk agreements is to implement the signed agreements step by step, including Clause 5 of the Package of Measures, which provides for the adoption of a law prohibiting the prosecution and punishment of participants in the events in Donbass.