AMBASSADOR'S BLOG - JUSTICE AND POLITICS IN UKRAINE

Kyiv
05.07.11


I first had the idea of writing a blog about justice and politics in Ukraine in autumn 2009.  At that time the campaign leading up to the presidential elections of February 2010 was in full swing. One presidential candidate made the campaign pledge that, if successful, he or she would ensure that another candidate stood trial for alleged misdeeds during his or her term of office.  At that time I considered writing a blog to say that such campaign promises were undesirable for several reasons: 

 

 

i) it is the job of the court system, not of politicians, to decide who should be prosecuted;

 

 

 

 

ii) the separation of powers is central to democracy.  If the court system is not independent, people in power risk starting to believe they are above the law; the trust of people in the law and in their rulers is undermined; and investors take fright;

 

 

 

 

iii) if a culture develops where politicians routinely seek to prosecute their opponents once they have left office, this undermines democracy by making those in power reluctant to abandon it through the democratic process lest they, in turn, face prosecution later.

 

 

 

In the event, other subjects came to the forefront and I never published the blog.  And, it turned out, neither the politician promising to prosecute a former office-holder nor the former office-holder was successful in the 2010 presidential election.

Fast-forward to 2011.  Several senior office-holders from the former government are being prosecuted.  A vigorous debate is taking place about whether these prosecutions are, as the authorities say, simply a matter of clamping down on corruption or are, as the opposition say, politically motivated.  Clearly any suggestion that any of these cases may be politically motivated is a matter of concern, as noted in a statement by the spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union, on 26 May, a comment issued by this embassy on 22 June and a comment by the US State Department on 24 June. 

I have no views on the rights and wrongs of individual cases.  And I have read with interest a list distributed by the authorities designed to show that many figures associated with the present government are being prosecuted in addition to members of the previous government.  The authorities argue that the list shows that justice is indeed being applied evenly.  The problem is that when corruption is widespread, whatever the facts of individual cases, prosecutions will always risk looking selective if only some people are prosecuted.  And in a democracy, any prosecution of important figures from the political opposition will always, rightly, be the subject of particular scrutiny both inside the country and outside.

 

 

Leigh Turner

 

British Ambassador to Ukraine
NOTE:  You can read all of Ambassador Turner's blogs by visiting:  http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/turnerenglish/

 



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