Shabunin says Poroshenko blocks ju­di­cial re­forms

Vi­taliy Shabunin, head of the board of di­rec­tors of the Anti-cor­rup­tion Ac­tion Cen­ter.

Kyiv Post Legal Quarterly - - Contents - By Jo­hannes Wam­berg An­der­sen jo­

You can’t have your choco­late and eat it too, to man­gle an old proverb. But that’s ex­actly what Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko wants, say anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tivists who ac­cuse him of ob­struct­ing jus­tice and re­sist­ing change.

The pub­lic hungers for con­vic­tions and jail terms for those who com­mit­ted ma­jor crimes against the state, es­pe­cially un­der over­thrown Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych.

Yet there have been no con­vic­tions. High-rank­ing of­fi­cials sus­pected of cor­rup­tion are walk­ing free as prose­cu­tors re­main in­stru­ments of a highly politi­cized – and po­lit­i­cally sub­servient – crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

This pro­vides a damn­ing in­dict­ment of the per­for­mance of Poroshenko, the first post-euromaidan Rev­o­lu­tion pres­i­dent.

Keep­ing con­trol of prose­cu­tors, the Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine and the courts is a key fea­ture of Poroshenko’s rule since his elec­tion in May 2014, said Vi­taliy Shabunin, head of the board of di­rec­tors of the Anti-cor­rup­tion Ac­tion Cen­ter. The non­govern­men­tal group ex­poses cor­rup­tion and lob­bies for anti-cor­rup­tion leg­is­la­tion.

“It is a pat­tern of be­hav­ior," Shabunin said. “Poroshenko wants to re­tain con­trol over pros­e­cu­tion.”

Such con­trol ef­fec­tively leaves the pres­i­dent in charge of who among the power elite gets in­ves­ti­gated and who is let off the hook.

By foot-drag­ging in cre­at­ing a gen­uinely in­de­pen­dent pros­e­cu­to­rial ser­vice, how­ever, Poroshenko risks a fall from grace sim­i­lar to that of ex-pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yushchenko. Af­ter Yushchenko failed to live up to the ex­pec­ta­tions of the 2004 Orange Rev­o­lu­tion that put him in power, he got only 5 per­cent of votes when he stood for re-elec­tion in 2010.

A Poroshenko spokesper­son wasn’t im­me­di­ately avail­able, but Poroshenko has re­peat­edly in­sisted that he will bring the jus­tice sys­tem and pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion in line with Euro­pean Union and Coun­cil of Europe stan­dards.

Olek­siy Mushak, a Bloc of Poroshenko law­maker, agreed that “so­ci­ety in­creas­ingly de­mands jus­tice, so the author­i­ties will have to de­liver soon, in­clud­ing against Yanukovych era of­fi­cials.”

Shabunin said Poroshenko's de­sire for a loyal pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral also de­pends on rank-and-file prose­cu­tors who obey or­ders from the top. This is why Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral Davit Sak­vare­lidze, who is try­ing to hire new and in­de­pen­dent prose­cu­tors, is so threat­en­ing to the sta­tus quo.

Shokin and the pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tion are in­sert­ing their rep­re­sen­ta­tives on com­mis­sions to hire new prose­cu­tors. "If the newly hired peo­ple have worked in the pros­e­cu­tion ser­vice be­fore, then we’re in deep trou­ble,” Shabunin said.

But the prob­lems in the ju­di­cial sys­tem are more wide­spread than just prose­cu­tors.

Shabunin said that the pres­i­dent can still or­der ver­dicts from judges just as his pre­de­ces­sors did. When ver­dicts aren't or­dered from above, Shabunin claimed, they can still be bought. Lawyer Igor Fomin agreed with Shabunin, say­ing that the prob­lem of ”or­der­ing court rul­ings by phone has be­come even worse.”

Anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tivists were ear­lier will­ing to give the pres­i­dent the ben­e­fit of the doubt. But no longer. “I had hoped he’d kept those in­stru­ments from the old regime in or­der to pur­sue swift re­form,” Shabunin said.

What are Poroshenko's mo­ti­va­tions? Pos­si­bly fear, Shabunin said.

“He couldn’t have been a big busi­ness­man and serv­ing as min­is­ter of econ­omy un­der Yanukovych with­out par­tic- ipat­ing in cor­rupt deals,” Shabunin told the Kyiv Post. He be­lieves that Poroshenko is driven by fear that past mis­deeds might be ex­posed, an ex­pla­na­tion for why no top of­fi­cials from the ad­min­is­tra­tion of ex-pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych have been pros­e­cuted, with many flee­ing the coun­try and, in some cases, keep­ing their as­sets.

They might know a lot about Poroshenko, who was a co­founder of the Party of Re­gions and an econ­omy min­is­ter un­der Yanukovych. Shabunin is also wor­ried about pos­si­ble pres­i­den­tial mis­deeds to­day.

While paint­ing a bleak pic­ture, Shabunin still be­lieves that “the sit­u­a­tion is much bet­ter com­pared with that un­der Yanukovych” be­cause the author­i­ties are more vul­ner­a­ble and more sen­si­tive to crit­i­cism, both do­mes­tic and for­eign. “It’s eas­ier for us to have an im­pact,” he said.

‘It is a pat­tern of be­hav­ior. Poroshenko wants to re­tain con­trol over pros­e­cu­tion.’

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