Tiger Conference experts to tackle rule of law issue
An overhaul of Ukraine’s corrupt and politically subservient law enforcement system will be the focus of the rule of law panel at the Kyiv Post’s fourth annual Tiger Conference.
The theme of the day-long event is “Ukraine: Creating the New Social Contract.” It takes place on Dec. 2 at the Hilton Kyiv hotel and will also feature panels on leadership, economy and energy.
“Judges, prosecutors and police officers should raise no doubts on integrity,” Virgilijus Valancius, a conference speaker and president of Lithuania’s Supreme Administrative Court, told the Kyiv Post. “Otherwise, the justice system will not be supported by general public. Without public confidence any justice system would face smaller or bigger problems.”
A new social contract that would usher in an independent and effective law enforcement system and restore trust between government and society is badly needed.
Currently, judges, prosecutors and police are mostly incapable of punishing corruption and top-level crime and among the most distrusted public officials, according to polls.
Ukraine has made some progress in rule of law since the EuroMaidan Revolution that drove President Viktor Yanukovych from power.
At least that is the view of Daniel Bilak, the moderator of the rule of law panel and managing partner of the Kyiv office of CMS Cameron McKenna.
“We’re winning cases in court that we never used to win before,” Bilak said. “The judiciary has started to realize that they don’t have that much political cover anymore and started to apply the law more and more.”
But there is a lot more to be done, Bilak said.
One of the most crucial steps is to start a genuine crackdown on corruption, which could be done “through transparency, when you shine light in dark corners,” he said. “But fundamentally, you have to start punishing people. There is a culture of impunity in this country. Arresting people and letting them out on bail sends a wrong message, and punishments for corruption are not strong enough.”
Another problem is that anti-corruption rhetoric is used as a veneer for politically motivated vendettas.
“The problem with anti-corruption bureaus is that they all end up being instruments for people in power to go after their political opponents,” Bilak said.
To make anti-corruption efforts meaningful, Ukraine has to have professional, honest and independent judges, experts say. But Ukrainian authorities have been dragging their feet on court reform.
Bilak said he supports a proposal to suspend all judges and make them re-apply for their positions and be tested for their knowledge and checked for their record.
Valancius’ vision of judicial reform is that “judges should be really independent but at the same time accountable to bodies that raise no doubt of independence as well.”
“The selection and appointment of judges should be based on objective, per-established and transparent criteria, free from any outside, be it political or any other pressure,” Valancius said.
Another pillar of the law enforcement system – prosecutors – is slowly undergoing an overhaul that envisages cutting staff and hiring new prosecutors in a transparent and competitive process.
However, critics say the resistance is fierce and fear the old corrupt prosecutorial system will be kept in place.
According to a recent Radio Liberty investigation, only incumbent district prosecutors have been recommended for the positions of chief local prosecutors in two regions of Chernihiv Oblast.
Bilak said that the implementation of the prosecutorial and other reforms “needs to be credible.”
“You can profane any process if you don’t have good will and decent intentions,” Bilak said. “That’s how reforms have been done over the past 20 years. We had lots of reforms, just none of them was implemented.”
The following are snapshots of conference speakers on the rule of law panel. Canadian- born
Daniel Bilak, 55, is the managing partner of the Kyiv office of CMS Cameron McKenna, a British law firm. Between 1995 and 2006, he was a senior United Nations Development Program governance expert, providing advice on administrative and legal reform to the Ukrainian government.
Sakvarelidze, 34, is a deputy prosecutor general and chief prosecutor of Odesa Oblast. He is in charge of Ukraine’s ongoing prosecutorial reform, which envisages hiring new prosecutors in a competitive and transparent process, and heads the General Inspection Service, which investigates prosecutors’ crimes.
Sakvarelidze was also involved in prosecutorial reform in Georgia, where he was first deputy prosecutor general in 2008-2012.
He has a law degree from Georgia’s Tbilisi State University, a political sci- ence degree from New York State’s St. Bonaventure University and a public administration degree from Japan’s Toyo University. Oksana Syroid, 39, is a deputy speaker of the Verkhovna Rada and a member of the Samopomich faction. Syroid, who is also an expert of the Reanimation Package of Reforms, was born in Lviv Oblast and has a law degree from the University of Ottawa. Before being elected to parliament last year, she had worked as a lawyer in Ukraine and Canada.
Virgilijus Valancius, 52, is head of “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine,” an EU project to help the country to overhaul its law enforcement system. Valancius, a professor at Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, was president of Lithuania’s Supreme Administrative Court from 2002 to 2008. Bohdan Poshva, 56, is a justice of Ukraine’s Supreme Court. Born in Ternopil Oblast, he graduated in 1988 from Lviv State University with a law degree. Previously he had worked as a local judge in Ternopil Oblast.
Ex-Justice Minister Olena Lukash, a suspect in an embezzlement case, at a hearing at Kyiv’s Pechersk Court on Nov. 6. (UNIAN)